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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

31 March, 2005

Slow Rot

As time sinks its teeth into my veins
Slowly, like fever spreading through my bones
Moss gathers more moss
Memories of touch don’t anchor anymore
Just slips and slithers out of reach
Hollows fill with putrid fluid
Stagnant breeding spaces for insects
Who crawl out into the darkness of my body
And rejoice in their feast of rancid flesh


30 March, 2005

Thought piece – Are “Item Numbers” over-stepping the limit?

Saw Sanjay Dutt’s and Koena Mitra’s act in the song “O, Saki, Saki” from the film “Musafir.” I had seen excerpts of it earlier, but it’s the first time I am seeing it in its entirety. The song is a rage with the youth, my own son being a cult follower of the latest trends. He has downloaded a ring tone on my mobile phone and plays it often.

It irritates me to hear the tune every time I receive a call. The irritation became even more pronounced after today’s viewing of the entire song. Here was I doing my daily morning exercise and my eyes nearly popped out on seeing the visuals. Shocking, would be an understatement, in my opinion.

There are no appropriate words to express my outrage and indignation at this song. It pushes the limits and then proceeds to cross them. No, not the fine boundary, but the extreme limiting line between gratuitous violence, murder and mayhem. And it is sure to spoil the impressionable youth, like my son, who will be persuaded to believe that violence, sex and indecency is okay. Moreover, it sets out to glorify deadly and insidious habits that can be harmful for health as proved by science and medicine.

First the thrusting, and hip wiggling Koena Mitra is constantly shown gyrating, her panties on view, tantalizingly. “Item number” the purveyors of such stuff would say. But how would she like being called an “Item number” on her face. She is naked except for some shiny underwear stuff that adds to her allure. Okay, a little eroticism is needed to sell a movie, but this is outright sexual provocation, nothing else.

Then Sanjay Dutt brandishes his knife. Then the dancers come out with weapons like scythes, swords, machetes, and make motions like killing each other and the sexy Koena. Suddenly, there are enough weapons on the screen to fight an entire medieval war.

Come on; is this okay to show the deprived millions who watch these acts of suggested violence? I mean, the film is already full of such stuff, showing enough gore, but do you want to show violence in a song too? They say it is harmless, I don’t think it is harmless when it would even incite one person to think about violent acts.

“Oh sharabi, kya sharabi, jo nasheme na rahe.”
“What is a drunk if he isn’t intoxicated?”

Now, don’t tell me these lyrics aren’t provocative. It is, in the extreme. It gives the impression that to drink is to be in a state of bliss. True Indian poets have poeticized intoxication in their works, but this is pushing the limits further. Dutt is shown in a state of drunkenness. And he passes the blade of his knife around Mitra’s throat several times. If it isn’t provocative and violent what is?

Drunkenness, lewdness, lechery, provocation to sex is what we see when we switch on the television. Is this needed? Isn’t it incitement? When such questions are asked the songwriters, directors hide behind the curtain of artistic freedom. Is this art? Not by any stretch of the imagination, I think.

Would somebody do something about this? I don’t know what the public think. But the makers of such “Item numbers” would even claim that it is artistic and that what is elevating. Being hypocritical comes naturally to the Bollywood denizens.

Over to you Caferati, what do you think?

29 March, 2005

Calling playwrights

This is an edited version of two emails from Shernaz Patel of Rage productions. Do feel free to pass it around.

After the overwhelming success of Writers Bloc 2004, we are launching the next series, beginning with a workshop for new writers later this year.

This residential workshop will be held just outside Mumbai, by teachers and practitioners from the UK, in conjunction with the Royal Court Theatre, London.

The Royal Court is the home for new writing in the UK and the training they impart is really excetional. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime and we are hoping to make this a continuing programme for emerging writers from all corners of India.

There is no language restriction. If the script is in a regional language, then they will need to submit an English translation and will have to be able to speak basic English to communicate during the workshop.

The writers will have to submit their material (one-act plays, full-length ones, monologues, at least one script) by June 5th to to Shernaz Patel, Rage Productions, 140 Andheri Industrial Estate, Off Veera Desai Road, Andheri West, Mumbai - 400 053. The final selection will be done in the UK.

If the writer gets chosen, they will go through the workshop process and if that goes well, their play will be performed and premiered in the Writers' Bloc festival in April 2006.

There are no fees for the workshop, but if they are coming from other cities they will have to handle their travel themselves.

If you know of any writer who is keen and interested, who wishes to go through a formal training programme, who you feel has the potential, please do get them to contact me on +91 98205 03919 or letsrage AT hotmail DOT com.

Please do spare a little time to help me as I am keen to find writers who have the potential, but have not had the opportunity. Also if you know of any theatre publications or places where I can put up posters or an e-mail site where I can put in a notice, do please let me know.

Thanks a ton,

Shernaz Patel

Silence and I

Silence I

We have a strange friendship
Silence and I.
We meet again, often now,
as when and I was young.
It has been many years.
I have changed.
So has Silence.

As a child, I would meet Silence
in magic places.
on the second branch of the mango tree,
in the sweet smelling laundry cupboard,
on the front seat atop the double decker bus.
Silence was my accomplice
and would make space
for me to spin fantasies that must
one day come true;
She let me listen to the parrots
and the who-did-its,
she led me by the soul to questions
and wide-eyed discoveries -
a whirling technicolour channel...
in silence.

Silence filled up my mind
and maybe made it noisy.
But it was fun.
And we were friends.
Except when she brooded in the dark,
usually at night,
and I would reach out
and grip my brother's hand
to get away from Silence.

Silence II

We lost touch for many years
Silence and I.
I looked the other way when she came by,
turning greedily to people and plots
that filled my raucous active life
Perhaps she couldn't stay
in the midst
of my restless world,
till I was ready to invite her again
and wordlessly say "hello, I miss you."
She's quieter now
and mellow
and has a bubble of her own
that keeps the world at bay.
I've changed as well
and when I'm with her
I am still.
I do not dream of what may be,
just hug the warmth of her presence
the glow of her weightless calm.
Sometimes we talk.
Not often,
for I don't wish to break the Silence
that keeps me with myself
alone but not lonely.
I am Silent after all.


28 March, 2005

letting go

i let you into my heart,
and now i’m letting you go,
drop by ruby drop.

i let you into my heart,
hoping you’d take over
every yearning cell.

the breeze has stilled,
the grass blades shudder,
i squint. the sky’s so pale!

the greedy earth soaks,
every crimson drop, as if
she’s seeking you too.

and on cue, the cold sprinkler
washes away the red. to think
you were in there!

the bees keep me awake,
in case you slip out, last drop
from my wretched hands.



This poem was written as a response to "The Visitor" by The Devil's Surrogate, a k a Inkspill: the poem will be found in the archives on her blog. I am given to understand that she read it (her poem) at the recent Read Meet in Poona.

It was almost closing time, and the keeper
jangled his keys on his rounds.
Late afternoon shadows recessed deeper
into the gloom, and the night’s first sounds

were tuning their pitches. I saw her enter,
uncertain in the light, or rather, lack
of it, walk down the centre
of the long marbled passage to the back,

where I was. “Five minutes, lady!” I could hear
authority sing across the dark corridor,
as she stepped up closer to peer.
She caught her breath, though more

through beating the clock than awe,
I thought. She knit her brows, gazed intently,
and in the minutes given to her she saw
what the blind centuries had failed to see:

not love-light in a statue’s eyes,
but history’s finely sculpted lies.



If hearts were fairer
You wouldn’t tell me
To walk bare-footed upon the sand
Where buried rocks
Sever soles of my
Beating nub’s footsteps
For once when I
Was brimming dare
To nest my hand in yours
You showed me stars
Then in a flick
I blinked and you were gone

Lessons taught
Remain unlearnt
As still I yearn to cross
The wobbly bridge
That buttons up
An ever-widening chasm of trust
My feet are sore
For healing salve
To bring them up and about
For then once more
They do aspire
To walk bare-footed upon the sand


26 March, 2005

Sliding Doors

Time Zero

The elevator is seamless in motion, and slides up without a hitch that I can feel. It lets me be, free to stand here, and revel in the dizzying effect of being weightless, transported beyond gravity to a fourteenth floor which seems strangely surreal at times, something of a nonentity at others. But most of all, the elevator affords me a view of the breath-taking expanse of ocean yawning below me.

All this takes only a few seconds. I enter the apartment complex, the security guard tips his cap in my direction and I give him a slight nod in a salute of my own, I punch in the lift button and the car arrives, and I step in. Steel doors slide noiselessly together in a dream-like slow motion, and I ignore the liftman after telling him which floor to go to. And I turn out towards the glass back of the slithering elevator, looking out at the expanse of glimmering, waiting sea visible from high above Prabhadevi. All of it only takes a few seconds.

I remember my first vision of Bombay. The aircraft was circling around neighbourhoods I had absolutely no idea of, twinkling fairy lights, glinting yellows and golds, punctuated by staccato bursts of white and silver, some megalith Christmas tree spread over a flat expanse, black sea still yawning and gulping calmly from where I was, high up, feeling slightly sick, my ears blocked out because of the air pressure. I remember silly things like that, and I remember falling in love with the city after that view. I try to search for something of that view now, as the lift courses upwards, but it is strangely exhilarating and disappointing at the same time how different characters they all tend to have. Physical manifestations of sea and rock and water and concrete and a jumble of human beings, you’d think the mob mentality would be the same everywhere you saw them, but this night above Prabhadevi in a lift that slithers and soothes and makes love to me in its silence has a whisper that is quite unlike the gentle drone of the aircraft.

And I wonder whether I have lost something, or gained something, or am simply, inconsolably scared to death of something.

Two hours earlier

All it takes is a glance to know that you like someone. That’s so not true. All it takes is a conversation to know that you like someone. Another falsehood. I’m not sure what it takes, I’m not sure what it took, but I’m here, and I like this man opposite me. Perhaps it has something to do with the way he’s looking at me, not too concerned, not too worried, not too formal, but he wants me all the same. It’s something I can tell.

I propel him through the huge shelves to the deo and hair gel section. He’s finicky, he wants a L’Oreal, and the damn store doesn’t have any. I’m amused and I laugh at the state of affairs. It’s not that funny, he says. He has favourites. Well, so do I, and I understand what he means. I squeeze his shoulders in empathy. Shopping can be a terrifying experience, I have friends who can’t make up their minds about a silly handkerchief, but not this time. Both he and I take our time together. We lounge on our own through the warm white light streaming down on the cold white floor, each in our little reveries. This is a first date, something tells me, go and speak to him, find out more about him, so he’s cute, but he’s more than just something to ogle at, go and talk to him, and I stand looking at a dark blue linen shirt, wondering if they have my size.

“It’s perfect. You’ll look great in it,” he says, coming up behind me, his hands around my waist, and it thrills me for some reason. You’re not a virginal little child, you ninny, you’ve been down this road for ages and ages, stop acting like a school child.

So I grin and dimple, and take it off the rack, and look at myself in the mirror with it. “You think so?”

He nods, and shows me what he’s picked out for himself. It’s a white T-shirt with a slogan about tall drinks and teetotalers and I laugh at the silly line. There’s a dilemma though: he doesn’t know which size to pick, small or medium, and I tell him to try them both on. I follow him to the changing rooms and stand outside his little stall, while he goes in.

There’s a guard there, at the extreme end of the changing rooms, maybe he’s supposed to keep an eye so that nobody walks away with the clothes, after wearing them and snipping off the labels with a tiny scissor. I smirk at the thought, and wonder whether I would ever do something like that. It’s quite enticing, really, for a clotheshorse like me. But I stop thinking about shoplifting, when I see him take his shirt off inside the cubicle, through the gap in the door, which he hasn’t bolted. I’m tempted, and I smile to myself. I wonder if I’m blushing. People say I blush very easily. A human lie detector. Damn.

The door opens, and he comes out, whirling around for my benefit. It’s the medium size, and he likes how it feels. It’s nice, I comment, and tell him to try on the small size. All I want, right now, is to see him naked in the little stall, and I confess that I’m blushing now. Thank god, the guard is a bit far away. The door to the stall closes. He’s put the latch on this time, and I sigh. Is the guard looking at me now?

Another stall opens, and two men emerge from inside. They’re laughing, holding those big black-netted bags inside which I can see tonnes of clothes. Have they been trying them out, I wonder, or…? The guard evidently shares my suspicions (or so I think), because he steps a couple of paces forward, and the two men stop grinning and laughing and file away past him silently. They head towards the cash counter, but I can’t help smirking at the look on the guard’s face, as he traces them all the way there.

“And what do you think, now?”

“I like this one better. It fits better.” I nod. There’s something sexy about him now, something even better than the idea of him, bare-torsoed in the cubicle, taking his clothes off layer by layer. This leaves something for me to imagine. “I like this one,” I say again, in assent.

He’s frowning. “You don’t think it’s a bit tight… here?” He points towards his chest, and I find the gesture horribly funny. I laugh loudly, and tell him it’s all right, it’s not as if he’s got Pamela Anderson’s boobs, and that the T-shirt looks fine. He’s still a bit unsure, and looks at himself in the mirror, and that’s when I make my move.

Fuck the guard, something tells me, and I move inside the stall with him, and wrap my arms around him. He’s surprised, but pleased, and I roam my hands over his tight chest, on the stretched t-shirt, and over his flat belly. “I like the fit,” I grin at him, winking slightly, and even pat his butt. And then I step right out of the stall and back in the corridor, where the guard is, not quite sure what to make of this split-second of indiscretion. I should flash him a smile too, I think, but don’t.

“Take it,” I tell him, because he’s turned back towards the mirror, looking at his multiple images dancing to his left, right, centre, and I wonder if he can see me leering at him, through the mask of decided nonchalance now on my face.

All it took was a second.

Twenty seconds after Time Zero

Steel doors open, and I say a distinct “thank you” to the liftman in security guard’s garbs, who gives me a salaam, when I step onto the fourteenth floor. A corner of my mind wanders and wonders whether I’m an elitist snob, an elitist ass, who likes getting salaam-ed like this, and another little piece of conscience wags a finger at me, and says I probably am. I’m not a very nice person, but I’m the kind of person who loves you, o, who the fuck am I kidding? I’m tired and I’m high, and I think I like my life and I think I hate what I’ve got myself into.

And all this goes through, in circles and circles, with eagles high up in an imagined blue sky, while time ticks away in a matter of seconds. I’ve pressed the doorbell, and I’m waiting to be let in.

A week before Time Zero

I’ve been telling myself that I can do this, and yet I can feel myself faltering even now. It doesn’t help that he’s here. But then, I would not be able to do it if he weren’t. My world is a conundrum, and I’m the Mad Hatter in Wonderland. (Glad to meet you.)

We were at the hospital, from where he picked up a report for his mother. She’s wonderful creature. She smiles at me, whenever she sees me, and holds my hand, and sits me down, and wants to know about all the gossip going on at my workplace. She pretends to think that her son and I are merely friends, she knows we’re so much more than that, yet she lives happily in her dreams and is happy to see us romp in her reality. Her eyes are always open, and yet, she has a cataract in the right one. O, horrible thought.

But he was so wonderful at the hospital. He laughed and talked with the nurses, flirted with the ramrod straight old lady behind the counter he had to pick the report up from and took her scolding in good grace, said hello to the elderly gentleman behind us in the queue and introduced me to him before they started talking about how his parents were, held my hand while leading me out to the parapet where his bike stood, leaning against the wall, lined with little gladioli pots. It was the going to be hard, I knew, and I wondered why on earth I was about to do it. All my reasons seemed to fly away. I cried and laughed with delirium while he guided the Honda towards Bandstand, and I wished fervently that the world would end and time would stop ticking.

But he can sense it. I can sense him sensing it. He leans over the rocks, where the two of us are sitting, and he strokes my arm. “Sit nearer to me,” he whispers, but I demur, and by the look on his face now, I can sense that he can sense it. It’s a demented, twisted loop over which I ache for control.

Small talk is something I want now. So I start yapping about work, and my trip to Goa, and the beautiful people I saw there and flirted with, and the late nights and the tall glasses of Long Island Iced Teas, and the shifting sand biting and crunching on the beach. Are there crabs here on the rocks, I wonder and ask him, but he smiles and says, even if they are, they won’t hurt us. They’re afraid of us, more than we are afraid of them. I’m afraid of him, even though he can probably sense it. Can he understand it, though?

He does. “Tell me what you’ve been going through. You want to tell me something. Are you alright?”

So he’s the one who drags out my confession from me. I was too cowardly to do it myself. Too frail. Too undecided. But if I were undecided, what am I doing here in the first place? Too many thoughts spring unbidden, unwanted, to my mind, and I cloister them away. I have to be honest, but how do I find the words to tell him? Am I even aware that I’m not looking at him, I’m looking at the group of three college boys sitting some distance away, on the rocks, feeling the spray of the sea.

And so it falls like a tonne of bricks, heavy, hard, smothering. “I don’t know where we’re going.”

“I’m not in love with you.”

“I don’t think I’m ion love with you.”

“I want to be in love with you.”

“But I’m not.”

“It’s not fair to you, to not be in love with you.”

“Am I being naïve, saying that I’m not in love with you?”

“You deserve much more, you deserve some one who is so much in love with you.”

Sentences, frayed and misty, with common words and threads that somehow link them together. I’m not even aware that my cheeks are wet, but I can feel his fingers on them, brushing and wiping and strong, and soothing. He tells me not to cry, and I find that ridiculous (because I’m not crying, am I?) and he tells me it’s alright. He smokes a cigarette, and I would rather look at the stream of smoke playing filigree on the darkening sky, than his thoughtful eyes.

“It’s alright,” he says. “I’ve never been with someone so much younger than me. I wondered how it could happen now. But I hoped… But it’s alright,” and he smiles at me, as if I’m the one who’s heart is broken now, “There’s so much more time. It’s alright.”

He baffles me. Yet, it is no more than I expected of him. We sit there on the rocks, talking about work, the boys on the beach, the lovers ahead, one arm around another, and then we feel awkward on noticing them, and talk about mundane matters instead: credit card payments, auto loans, rent allowances, future career plans, and so many little things I would go to a tax consultant for, or to a career counselor.

I take an auto rickshaw back to the station. He remained on the beach, and I moved my fingers through his hair, as he smiled again and again, and told me that it would be alright. I knew it would be hard. Will it last, I ask myself, but don’t really want to find an answer. Is there any fat, bald old man on any tall mountain I can holler to, and ask my future from? What can he possibly tell me that I don’t know myself…

Thirty seconds after Time Zero

Wooden doors remain closed, and I’m exasperated. Bell peals sound maddening to my ears, and yet nobody lets me in. I rummage in my bag for a key, finally.

25 March, 2005

Face lifts

Curls of wood evenly glazed
Away from my arms
Tufts of air disguised as breeze
Gently tugging at sleeves
Mind struggling to remember
Some profound piece of poetry
That some well-read beard face
Stoically said was good!

Awake, not really,
Sleep not yet percolated into
The abyss of mind
It has not even seeped out.
Wetting the pillow on the other side.

Like I said, a few lines, years ago:
Curls of wood
Fall off every now and then.
As the planer glides by.

Leaving a smooth glossy finish,
Maybe a coat of varnish
And the sheen will be permanent.
Who says facelifts are difficult.


24 March, 2005

So Hard

I tried so hard
To fill the blank spaces with words
These many days, these many nights,
And all I kept seeing
Was you.
In the loops of the 'Ls',
In the upturned arms of the 'Us', your shadow;
You slipped through
The curves of the 'Ss'
And I saw myself
Crucified on the 'Ts'.
So I tore them all up
And played music all night.

I tried so hard, so hard
Not to skip the rests,
And yet
Lost time, as the E strings
Drew patterns on my fingetips
That once traced
The lines of your shoulderblades;
And the music bled
On the frets
Beneath my fingers
As I tried so hard, so hard,
To forget you,
My words, my drifting music.


23 March, 2005

Star Carpet

The stars
They never knew me
Dancing in the dark dome

Passages carved
Between them in
In whispers of light

But none can dare say that
They know the aching heavens

For the river never changed its dotted message.



22 March, 2005


operating on apathy? me?
i admit, i used to lose
my shirt, my temper,
the change in my pocket,
and many an hour, rescuing
books lying on sidewalks,
their spines torn, pages unglued,
imaginary suffering of friends,
their tears and travails,
beer bottles buried in sand,
empty and broken,
idols immersed in oceans
overburdened with plastic,
singing birds in cages,
and performing monkeys,
outstretched skinny hands,
starved for food,
little fish from big ones,
scared cats off fences,
but i realised, tho late,
you had planned it all.
a simple ruse to distract me.

am wiser to your tricks now,
i'll let my need rule me
plain and true: i need you.
shan't hear anything but your name,
see nothing but you,
feel nothing but love,
until you show yourself,
take my hand and make me yours.



Being nothing
emptiness personified
yet I am there
can you feel
the space inside

It's growing and growing
the nothingness expands
the moon, the stars, all within me
as I explode inside whom I reside

Can you feel me
my being around you
the space, the nothingness is me

Tell me
do you even know
that I am within you!


21 March, 2005


A word or two about this poem. No one chances upon Cremona violins in junk shops; I didn’t either. The only person known to have done so was Sherlock Holmes, who picked up his Stradivarius in a shop in Tottenham Court Road for the princely sum of fifty-five shillings. The other inspiration for the poem is a Stradivarius supposedly in the possession of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford: it is said to be so pure and perfect in quality that it is called The Messiah (my source for this story is Jan Morris’ book on Oxford).

The poem is allegorical.

It’s the usual shop for odds and ends,
the impedimenta of people’s lives:
pots and pans, carved bookends,
a case of curious kitchen knives.

I pick my way through the bric a brac
to some musty tomes tied with hemp,
as the rheumy owner swats a rag
to flick the dust off them.

A casual glance suffices for me:
nascent hope gutters and dies.
There’s nothing there to interest me,
no long-sought gem to rhapsodise.

I give the place one last sweep
before I turn my back on it,
vaguely disquieted by this rubbish heap
on which dereliction’s so starkly writ.

Thus almost missing the thing – uncased,
forlornly stood against the door
like an errant schoolboy disgraced
for some minor misdemeanour.

Mute prey to dust and mould
(the strings have somehow held their own)
I’m still surprised it lies unsold,
for someone or other should have known…

Through the ear-holes in the waning light
an ancient label squints at me,
its print all but faded white:
a date, and the name Antonio Stradivari.



One More Conquest...

Lost and surrendered, I withdrew back
The shadows of cowardice, dark and black
Loomed over my defeat
A voluntary retreat

Struck by lightening, as if to say
The soldier in me that dormant lay
Picked up the sabre, bold and bare
And fought a way that few could dare!

The cowardice lay bleeding and dead
No ominous shadows of fear and dread
The fighter in me had conquered again
Fear and cowardice, the devils twain!!

(c) Praneeta Paradkar


The Women

I painted blue women for those who leave behind unwanted stories about themselves
I painted the red set remembering those who swallow fire and leave behind ashes in the dust
The pallid yellow for those who tortured themselves and left behind the scars
The green for mothers and daughters and wives

What shall I paint for those who leave behind nothing
Nothing that sing or whisper or drown
Those who draw and erase every line they live
And vanish in a split second of time


Writer's block

Long drawn battles in abandoned spaces
Words vacillate between entire universes of silence
There is no countdown
Only breathe in breathe out
And exile becomes your own


Snapshots of Time (Morning)

At 10 am
I heard your voice
Whispering in my ear

I smiled
And cupped your sounds
In my fist
And jiggled them
To gel with
The sound of my love
And then
Hung them in the sky
To match
The colors of the rainbow




some nights when sleepless winds howl disconsolate
outside the peacock's cry echoes despair
the mind turns suddenly:
like a queen revealed when shuffling a pack of cards
i see your face. the rounded childlike cheeks
that I have held, the eyes through which
I have gazed into your soul
the life which I held then in my arms
now lost, overlaid with other loves. a pang flashes -
i wonder where in this world you roam
your feet in the sand on what empty beach,
getting wet in what rain, sitting by what window
your eyes dark with a lifetime of pain...
the fires I started but couldn't control
and in the end it burnt, burnt, burnt you up
and now that the memory no longer wells up in tears
i wonder if i am still there - somewhere -
like stars lost in the light of day:
see what a narcissist i am,
even now?


My stop

All those words that I never assocate with myself come rushing back to my ears: nightcrawler, solitarist (is that even a word?), pretender, magician, mysterious. It is a different kind of trip I get when I'm like this, rushing through the city streets at night, and it doesn't matter if there are people around me in the bus or not. I live by myself on these trips, through myself. Sometimes, something in the trembling yellow light awakens me, and I look at the object that struck me, and I smile, or I wonder, or I stare.

That little girl in the red and gold lehenga, for example, one day in Chennai - it has been so many months since I last saw her, and yet, I cannot alight a bus without wondering about her, what she's doing, whether she's still pulling and punching at her dad's pock-marked cheeks, the way she was when I first saw her.

And over here, there is the music. A strange kind of background, jarring and yet, so completely melting into what I'm feeling. Harsh Punjabi bhangra, mingled sometimes with the raunchiness of a Bollywood number, all of which are punctuated by the saucy voice of the DJ as she speaks in English to the turbaned bus driver who has just dipped his moustachios in a pitcher full of creamy lassi. Like the way I have just sucked the juice from my rabri-stuffed parantha... delicately, holding the steaming delicacy in both hands, nimbling at the crust, and then probing with my tongue till I feel the hot sweetness ooze into my mouth, and then I suck slowly, pulling in some more of it. In some strange, undecipherable way, I think of the parantha that I'd eaten just minutes before alighting this particular bus, and no, I would not have it any other way.

No other way, but to hear the fast tempo of the young men, tired and haggard-looking, in white pinstriped synthetic shirts who get on the bus and start chanting - they're selling a part of themsleves, I think, and cannot but help peer closely, almost indecently. A map of the city, complete with the knowledge any blue-blooded vampire would want of where the city's blood banks are, what any tireless sleeper would want to know of the bus routes that criss-cross the metropolis, promising always of something greater, more magnificent, more awe-inspiring - like this simple ride, next to a young man who looks old, tired from his day, who sits slumped in his seat, and I'm dreading the fact that, any second now, his head will fall onto my shoulder, and I still don't know how I'll react when that happens.

But I have my window. And my window has me. My window has memories for me. Of so many other bus rides in another city, where I sat there with a girl dozing next to me, her shoulders also slumped, her head tilted slightly back, resting on my torso, and my arms around her, holding her close so that she doesn't fall, so that she doesn't wake, and I am content merely to watch out of the window, at the waves in the distance, rolling by under the watchful blue moon, making little rustling noises as they kiss the shore, that I can hear even above the solitary roar of the bus, as it rambles its way through the dead of night, through the dead of the countryside.

Another time, another city, no other person next to me. I watch the clouds gather in battle formation overhead, grey and black and silver and blue and a strange shade of ochre, and I message the person I'm thinking of... I wish you were here, I punch in my cell phone, I wish you were here with me, and we were out in the rain, I wish I could kiss you, and then we could make love... as the imagined rain softly patters on the grass outside the bungalow. I wait for an answer to my message, that never comes.

What does come is another emaciated-looking young man, in the trademark white pinstriped synthetic shirt that sticks to his body, replete with the odor of a long day's tediousness. He's chanting those same lines again, about blood banks, and bus routes, and shopping malls, and old historic buildings in this old historic city - all of which can be purchased from him at the behest of a crumpled piece of paper bearing a bald old man's face on it - and I smile almost in mean spite to myself. You're too late, I want to tell him, the other one has already come and gone, you're just too late - and I'm mean, yes, but I melt too at the thought, and I wonder what it is he will do now, after his brilliant oratory is over, and he has finished passing his little books around, but they all come back to him, with nary a crumpled piece of currency?

Maybe he'll sigh, like I did, and hop off the bus, and try his luck in another one - 53A, from Uttam Nagar to Lal Qila, green and white and grey, DTC, Propelled by Clean Fuel, say the painted blue letters.

Damn! I ripped my pants on a nail, as I hurried to my feet.

I think this is my stop.


19 March, 2005


The desert sun
The scorching eyes
The sweltering heat
The parched throat
The burning eyes
The trudging feet
The tired soul
The distant horizon
The bleak expanse
The absent greenery
The silent trance
The usual mirage
The rising hope
The quickened pace
The non-existent oasis
The futile effort
The shattered hope
The engulfing quicksand
The gaping hole
The thorny cacti
The piercing truth
The bleeding finger
The sudden dawn
The love or
The illusion?

(c) 1997 Praneeta Paradkar

Read at the Pune readmeet on 13th Feb, 2005 at Max's place



The black of the eye
That sees light

The black of ink
That adorns the paper white

The black of the sky
That stars need to shine

The black of the night
That sedates the mind

The black cloud
That pours down as rain

The black coal
That treasures the diamond

The black mud
That brings green to life

The black versus white
That makes white seem white...

The black on the palette
That engulfs all hues

The black of black...
For the serenity it gives...

(c) 2000 Praneeta Paradkar

Read at the Pune Readmeet on 13th March, 2005 at Max's place.


Why i didn't write you a Valentine

i - who can churn out doggerel
at the least excuse -
sit here bargaining with hell
for words that will amuse

you, hold you, keep you,
not make you run.
Light words, singing true,
hiding, underneath the fun,

what i really want to say
but don't, even though
it's THAT day today,
when it's okay to go

a little goofy, a bit
romantic, and lose
the acquired habit
of reserve, the ruse

i've learned of the stiff
upper lip, no matter what.
And i wonder what if
i let go, and, caught

in the moment, told
you in so many words,
that it's a cold
world, with no birds

singing, no laughter
when you're not around;
that this word crafter
hates the sounds

of a world without
you in it, and that it,
beyond a doubt,
isn't a Bad Habit

to want you near,
to hear your voice
in the night, dear
one, that it's nice

(to understate it a bit)
to look into your eyes
late into the night, and it's
even nicer to rise

in the morning to the bliss
of those eyes before me.
And if i were to say all this
would you then abhor me,

run away from those words?
It's that fear that makes me say
Today, i have no words,
i have nothing to say.

February 2005.

A poem i read at the New Bombay Read Met, and could have sworn i posted here, but apparently i haven't.


18 March, 2005

Snapshots of Time (First Hour)

I saw
You at 3 am
In a distant dream
Pensive and withdrawn
Collecting marbles
Of desire
From the mantelpiece
And arranging them
On the coffee-table
To form my name



16 March, 2005

Picture Poetry

You stood
Against the window
Staring out
While I captured your
Thoughtful silence
In my mind's lens

Your hands gripped
The bars
In the rigid resolve
Of a love regained

I watched the light
Play hide and seek
Around your lips
Glinting like precious pearls

Suddenly you turned
And looked at me
Catching the love
On my face
In all its trusted nakedness



swimming to the other side

when you get up suddenly at 4 AM without any good reason, and
it is still dark outside and you have a vague premonition as
if you are swimming and you feel cold because it is colder
there where the waters are deep and outside the window it is
pitch black you can't go back to sleep and then the words
flow out one after the other like your arms cutting through
the water the thoughts forming effortlessly like foam on the
waves and bhimsen joshi is with you on this journey miyA ki
mAlhar and you look at the words sideways and you edit them
rippled from underwater and you wonder where all these words
are coming from and you realize that perhaps it was the
paash-baalish piece that took you back to those years on the
ganges and you want to feel the soothing touch of the water
now, here, sprawled on this bed, and the sky is still black
but the birds are out and soon there is a tinge of grey and
then you can hear them jhArooing the courtyard in the back
and bhimsen joshi is still very much in vilambit - kari mai
nAwe - you have turned it up full blast he is so good and you
wonder if the neighbours can hear it but you don't care a
hoot now when the words are flowing and you wonder what will
you do with all these words, why they are coming to you these


the other shore

far away from shore
swimming for the other side
it is colder here,
the currents faster
you have to keep going
can't slacken up
no, not for a moment
really not heading for the other side
which is a cremation ground
your mustard-oiled body
angled upstream
heading for the power plant
smokestacks silhouetted
on gray sky.
head into water,
left hand stroke, and then
the head sideways
now you see yourself
cutting through the current
your right arm
arcing through air
palms curved like a sail
entering the water
without a splash
a nimble grace overwhelms you
like a ballerina
your hands pirouetting
your eyes open still
on the lookout
for the dark mass -
that haunt these waters
the sun a blob in the grey
and your legs kicking
behind you
each time you come up
you feel the surge of power
moving forward
across to the other side
and you wonder
why you are doing this
why does one do
you who are reading this
i wonder if you
have also felt it:
embarked on a madness
there comes a time
approaching the halfway mark
when you doubt
you count your yesterdays
against your tomorrows
and you wonder
if the world will smile
if you ever get to tell her
and then you feel
you have crossed that magic
halfway mark
and its easier to go on
though a part of you
wishes you could stop
and just drift down
past the trellised jetties
past the black barges
past the tumbledown bungalows
dark arches, hoary with secrets
lined up on parade
layered stairs coming down
to waters edge. temple spires.
and then you can float
right under all those
feet marching busily -
the howrah bridge
and further yet, waiting
for the big boretide
to toss you into the heavens
but of course
you can't drift,
there's lunch
and homework to finish
now, hello - concentrate,
you are slacking off there
your kick losing
rhythm. just keep it up
your arms and your legs
in syncopated cycle
you can see
some smoke rising
from the other side
you are not heading
for the power plant
any more its too far upstream
you are angled now
for the ferry ghat
you catch a glimpse
a glimmer of flame
beneath the smoke
you break your head
rhythm to look forward
another bundle of carbon
returning to dust
and you wonder
in the light-headed mood
of exercise
if all this while
that is what
you were heading for


A particular man

The boy out on the ledge next door stared back at the man in the window. The man in the window was contemplating that, contemplating the wide-eyed look of curiosity that gazed unabashedly at this strange new creature that had moved into the building. The man at the window was ordinary enough, the kind you saw strolling down G D Ambedkar Marg everyday, peering at the factory shops of the expensive brands, entering a couple of times, looking furtively at price tags and then walking out of the store within ten minutes to enter the shop next door. Not that he was cheap, he liked to think himself particular. I'm particular, thought the man in the window, sipping his coffee, looking at the boy out on the next-door ledge.

The radio was playing Downtown and he could almost nod his head in tune to that sappy, silly song that was so endearing to him. It seemed thoroughly out of place here, in this Parel colony building, the sounds of disquietingly loud English music, decidedly retro, blaring forth from the radio. A louder strain of Marathi film song would not have seemed so out-of-place, he mused, adjusting a book on the window shelf and sitting down on the seat beside the ledge. Not that he was a snob, not that he looked down upon Marathi film songs, he was simply new, with the curiously indifferent contempt that the new has for the established. He was reading a book about romance, about strangely found love among strange people, and he found that he couldn't really concentrate. He found that the little boy on the ledge simply would not let him, and so he let his open book remain on his lap and the music waft around him, but he looked out at the window, meeting the boy's eyes with his own.

They were exchanging notes that way, some sort of a grave confidence. He could hear the boy's mother busying herself in the background, not as if she was somewhere unseen in the next flat and he was on the other side of the building, but rather, as if he was standing next to the boy and the mother was clattering, crashing, cursing just a little way behind him, a little indistinct but so, so near. He almost thought it disquieting, because he knew that what he could sense about the boy, the boy could sense about him. He wasn't really sure whether it was a game, but he knew that they could both play it.

The man in the window seemed oddly familiar like that strange creature you see at 12 pm at night in front of the mewad ice cream man's stall, eating a faluda, which was fancy because it came in a glass mug and cost Rs 10, while everyone else merely wolfed down their Rs 5 kulfi cones. He would take his mug and his faluda and sit on the brick fence that was constructed over the flyover, so that he could eat while watching the cars whiz by. They were mostly taxis, because this was an out-of-the way area. Only if you were going towards Byculla, and there was a traffic jam over B A Ambedkar Marg, would you want to go through this road. They were building some skyscrapers on the other side, towards the main road, G D Ambedkar, and the man in the window, with his glass mug in his hand, would sometimes look up at the looming skeletons and probably wish he could live there. He would always have earphones attached, and you could hear the loud music from the little grey Walkman attached to his belt, as if he had lugged a heavy stereo with him out on the road. For the most part, he was ignored, but the boy on the ledge would never fail to gaze at him and wonder about him.

He never fails to wonder about me, the man with the book on his lap thought. The RJ was talking now and the music was interrupted. They were collecting funds for some orphans and wanted people to contribute. The man in the window smiled tightly and went back to his book, but he looked up again when the doorbell chimed.

"O, hullo, what are you doing here?" and he wondered whether what he had just said seemed rude to her.

The girl at the door smiled at him, however, so he supposed that she hadn't thought he was rude, and so he was glad. "I was just passing through, and thought I'd come in to say hi. Where's Tushar?"

"Ummm... Tushar's not here, though." Her eyebrows moved upwards, and so he smiled with a sigh and said, "He had some work at the office. I think, and after that, they'll have to run down for some interviews."

"Office? On a Saturday?"

"Yea - "

"Man, those bastards make you guys slog!"

"Yea - " Was she going to come in, was she going to come in, was she going to come in, was she going to come in - "Anyway, why don't you come in?"


"Alright - " Her bright eyes flashed now, and she smiled that grin he knew so well. She pulled her handbag closer to herself for some reason and stepped into the flat with a somewhat longer step than was necessary, and brightened with a somewhat greater degree of animation than was necessary - "Alright, I will step in - for a moment... So this is the place, is it?"

He closed the door, it closed smoothly without a noise, and showed her the window seat. She sat. "Yes, this is the place. You've been here before, haven't you?" Of course you have, I know you have. I discovered your little spotted hanky here on the window seat one night when I came back home, and when I looked again five minutes later, he had quietly slipped it inside his pant pockets. I know you've been here. I know you've sat there by the window, and I wonder whether you know that I sit here all the time myself.

"No, no. No. I've never been to your place. Tushar never brought me here. This is my first time. Nice place, though."


"So, what can I get you?" he rose and bustled towards the fridge. The radio was still on their Golden Oldies hour and Lynn Anderson was begging pardon about promising any rose gardens to unsuspecting and mistaken dolts, or something like that. The light from the fridge lamp seemed to warm his foot when it fell upon him, but that was ridiculous, of course. "We have Coke, and some sort of juice - " he squinted his eyes - "Orange juice. And of course there's coffee. I'm having coffee. Do you want coffee?"

He popped his head out from behind the fridge door with a comical quizzical look on his face. So she laughed and uncrossed, re-crossed her legs. "What - the 'boys' don't have anything stronger than coffee, is it?"

She was trying to make a joke. He hated the uneasy edge behind her humour, and tried to dissolve it by trying to appear as vulnerable and simple as he could. "No, babe. We're good little boys. It's you bad mommas who rob us from the cradles, remember?"

Squint. Bad joke.

But she still laughed. She was getting desperate. "No coffee for me, thank you. I'll go to the office now and catch your flatmate. I'm sure he'll take me out for coffee. Too much of that stuff and I'll become a nervous giggly wreck. I'll have some juice, thanks."

"Suit yourself. One juice coming up."

Tall glass. He would have liked to provide some sort of embellishment to it, but had no idea how. He was the strange man in the window, he remembered, and as he looked out of the kitchen window, he realized that the boy on the ledge was still there. The boy was nearer, it seemed, nearer even than the strains of Que Sera Sera floating in from the living room. He was gazing now at the pretty woman sitting on the window seat, and the man thought - how many other times has he sat there on the ledge, watching her sit on that seat, or perhaps lying down, with Tushar in the window. The idea was strangely voyeuristic, strangely thrilling, partly morbid and partly depressing. In the end, he was relieved. It was a link, a tenuous link, but a link nonetheless, between him and what he missed when he was not there and the two of them were together.

"I love this song," she said, when he handed her the juice. "It's one of my favourites."

He laughed easily now. It stirred a memory within him. "O my god, yea. Do you remember those evenings at the hostel?" and he laughed again, half afraid that she would say no and snub him, half afraid of a million other things, but then laughing all the same.

She squealed and licked her lips. "I always thought that Seema had this thing for you. As soon as she heard you sing Only You, she was gone for a toss! And you were like this major snake-in-the grass! You had such a major thing for her!"

She was pulling his leg, but he laughed along, content to let her believe in her own fiction. Seema was miles away now, and he hadn't thought about her since that last email where she had informed everyone grandly that she was going trekking in Gulmarg. He had no idea how good or bad the trek was and had never asked anyone about it. There were times Tushar tried to draw him out like this, too, but he never reacted. He always grinned, like this, and sipped a drink or looked at the wall clock for signs of Seema the Spider crawling up behind him.

Coffee was the ambrosia of the gods, at times like this. Billy Joel started singing Uptown Girl now, but the moment of easy humour and easy memories had passed. "So, were you guys supposed to go out today, you and Tushar?"

"Not really... this juice is divine. Dad was going into Marine Drive and I got down at Siddhi Vinayak. Hopped on a cab to surprise him." So she wasn't "in the neighbourhood" at all. "I thought he'd be home. It's a Saturday, for God's sake! I forgot that you guys are owned by a behemoth monster!" She grinned that lopsided thing that Tushar was crazy about, but which he found mildly patronising. "How come you're not at work too, by the way?"

"Different departments - " and he switched the radio off, because Golden Oldies was over and they would start making stupid jokes and handing out passes for movies soon, in return for silly antics on your part. He had done that himself once, and won two tickets to a play, for which had to sing a crass line from a crass Hindi song in a packed train. He imagined the boy on the ledge dancing wildly to that song, careening with laughter, wild and happy. Not on the ledge, where he still was, gazing fixedly at them.

"So what do you think about the flat?"

"O. O... it's - nice." He grinned. The stairs always took everyone by surprise. The flat was paradise, once you came inside the door and left the pan-stained stairs out of your life. But he was used to that now, and certainly, the children of the neighbouring flats who played in excitedly loud tones every evening on the landing barely noticed them. They would yell and scream and hide under the stairs as you climbed up and fumbled at the door with your keys, making you an unwitting and perhaps unwilling participant in the glorious drama of fairyland kings and queens that was being enacted there. The one of the ledge was always someone important in the game. He would be the king or the Superhero who had been waylaid, ambushed, trapped, betrayed, bamboozled by the evil minister or alien, whom he always managed to defeat in the end. It was fascinating, in a way, and sometimes he would purposely stand at the door, pretending to get his keys wrong, jangling them again and again, ears keenly waiting for the war cry that he knew would come and the bugle toots from the child designated the Imperial Footman.

"The crowd's pretty low-class, but the flat's cool. I like that. It came furnished. TV, Fridge, beds, chairs, tables, cupboards, gas stove, geyser. We hardly spent anything on that. Only shopped for food and supplies." He had no idea why he was talking to her like this. It wasn't as if she was interested. Her juice was finished and the empty glass was on the floor. He thought - do you want to see the bedroom? And then stopped with the thought, you've seen it already, I'm sure! And then he bit his lip. It hurt. He wondered if the little boy on the ledge could feel that too.

"Anyway, I have to leave," she got up now, gathering her silly little bag that was done up in absurd tufts of cloth and mirrors. "I want to catch Tushar at the office."

"O. Ok, then. Great to see you. Do stop by more often."

"I will. Bye. Love the flat. And the crowd's not that bad, at all - for Bombay" she smiled and he hated her when she did that. There was no music in the background now as they hugged and he thought there was something sad about that. There should be some grand finale to this meeting, he thought. There should be something that rent the air with some beautiful sad notes of a song that people died for in the days when they were young and remembered now only for their lost passions. "Goodbye," she said, and patted his hand fondly, and opened the door. A yell from the Superhero adventure filled the hall, and he gave an apologetic grin -

"It's like that, sometimes. Take care."

She stepped over the Imperial Trumpeter, all of two years old, sitting precariously on the top step with his silver paper clarinet, and hurried down the stairs.

The man in the window stepped away from the door and walked into the kitchen with a tall glass in his hand. The kitchen window was small and circular, and the little boy on the ledge could not see much through it. But he could hear the angry hiss of the opened tap, as if a volley of gnashing snakes had been let loose upon the man in the window, and he saw his hands furiously rubbing something, and so he imagined that he was washing something. His face was cold and passive, and especially so when he turned around to see him through the circular connection between them. They watched each other through wide eyes for a second, two, three, four, that dragged onto maybe a whole minute, and then he smiled, shook his head and walked away. Not in the living room, where the boy on the ledge could see him, but inside his cavern, his room, perhaps. He was a strange, particular man, the boy mused, who had strange particular desires on another strange particular man.

15 March, 2005


Across from Bryant Park,
at the corner of 43rd and 6th,
underneath several layers
of filth, a man, past all cares.

Alone in an altered reality,
his possessions in a cart,
he shuffles back and forth,
unheard, shoving his net worth.

Skirting his noisome presence,
deaf to empty threats,
I walk past, at a steady pace,
indifference masks my face.

A mask that carefully conceals,
terror at this Russian roulette:
Fleeting fortunes, sighs of relief,
and cart-borne lifetimes of grief.



You see her on your way to work
a brisk efficiency and cheer will
animate her soul as she steps into the office;
now her eyes are ringed by dark circles
set in a flaccid fallen face.
And you think to yourself
that between the tedium of last night’s dishes
and the children’s morning tiffin
she has become
a boring nameless woman
as routine as the daily train schedule.

You see her in the boardroom
completely in control, it seems,
with her power suit and presentations;
the puffiness barely concealed by too much make-up
and a too-bright smile.
And you think to yourself
that between the alcohol-tinged social nights
and caffeine induced mornings
she has become
yet another pill-popping professional,
just an incompetent juggler of life.

But in the guise of love, or lust, or marriage,
in the precious moments she thought she owned,
in the comfort of her dream-less sleep,
the freedom of her body has been mangled
leaving her without tears,
quite dry-eyed, dried up everywhere;
leaving her staring blindly into
a violated night;
leaving her to continue tomorrow
with a tired mask that slips so slightly
that you, the stranger,
see her and think to yourself
Oh look what these women do to themselves.


My View: Readmeet at Pune

It took some confusion around Chandni Chowk and I ended up driving opposite the flow of traffic (twice) on the ramp leading off the highway, but was able to make it to Max's place just before 1600h. Most of the crowd trundled in by 1630h barring a few stragglers. Mr. Moderator, Siddharth, initiated the round of formal introductions. Going by my suggestion, each person not only gave out his name, but also said a bit about 'the book that impacted me the most'. While most of us felt that our lives had been impacted by more than one book, some of the introductions were very unique. Like, for Manasi, it was her XIIth std. Physics textbook that convinced her to drop Science and plunge into the Arts. And then, the Bible, created a few ripples, what with Ramgopaul saying that it got him converted to a Christian and Titash saying that it made him an atheist!

The serious business of the readmeet began when Rucha poignantly read out a poem by Dinesh called, "Pixellated Imbroglio", which was an ode to his lost online love. However, due to some of the technical language he had used (bits, bytes, 1s and 0s) I thought it was actually a humorous verse to his computer, until the end where the true nature of his love-interest was revealed. Next was Raamesh, who read a short story called, "Divorce". Frankly I was expecting a kind of antithesis to H.G. Wells' "Marriage', but what followed had the entire assembly in splits. It was a cleverly crafted plot about the petty financial issues that arose within a working married couple after the budget was announced, leading to their divorce. Raamesh claimed that he wrote the story about an hour after watching the budget. This was my ‘best of the short story stash’ that we heard at the readmeet. Raamesh followed it up with an equally side-splitting Valentine’s poem from a dog to a bitch.

Sudarshan then stirred our minds with two short poems: "Quilt" and "Words". There was an astonishing disparity of interpretations of "Quilt" from the audience, which probably forced Sudarshan, himself to re-look at his poem. "Words" was nicely worded and subtly highlighted the impact of technology on writers of this age with its reference to the ‘blinking cursor’. After Sudarshan's poems and the buzz of discussion on them, I took the 'hot seat' and read out "Threads", which is the piece I had posted to the writing exercise on Ryze. The only thing I feel like saying here is that no one clapped for my piece. I waited for the promised loud applause that ensued after each reading but it never came. :( However, a number of the audience seemed to agree that I have a penchant for dark writings. Geetanjali followed me with another dark, sensational, offering called, "La Femme Fatale" with the sexy, exotic Nicola, an actress of questionable reputation, as its protagonist. The images Geetanjali wove into her plot were sizzling (*giggle*). After, hearing the story, most of us felt that it was a couple of notches higher than "La Femme Fatale" and Sudarshan suggested "The Black Widow" as the title.

There came a break, the best part: the abundant spread of goodies on the table. The way I feel about food, Titash is convinced that I attend readmeets only for this part. The snack-break lasted a good twenty minutes during which recently-read works were re-visited, writers congratulated, introductions extended and coffee instantaneously binged upon (not literally). It was truly commendable that Max and Nino, having arrived from the hospital with Mimi, only a few hours before us, could actually pull off such splendid hospitality. More Max!

Max kicked off the second session with two poems by Praneeta, "Black" and "Disillusionment" , and his own story called “The Licking”. Having been a victim of Max’s last experiment at Navi Mumbai, this title brought dubious images to mind and Max lived up to them. This breed of stories that involves a substantially elevated risk to a certain male species’ member is sure to make hot sales, or so, methinks. But besides, the humour, Max painted a subtle picture of (terribly) Parsi culture and nuances. Two poems from Vinod sobered the gathering. The first called “City of Joy” was about Vinod’s experiences in the alleys of the city of joy. What I liked about this moving poem was how it reflected his perspective through the lens of a camera. The second one, emotively read by Dinesh, was a romantic, "Silent Waves". I loved the allegory of the flower and the bees and one particular line stayed with me throughout this day, “They (the flowers) know the footsteps of bees”.

And then our good moderator, Sid, shared his work, or rather, shared his darkness with us genteel folks. “Dark Avenger” was Sid’s message to the world to let out their emotions, especially anger. Shilpa thought he was advocating violence through his poem, and while I agree that from a certain angle that does appear true, but I found that this anger was shaded with bravery. Whatever the meaning, the language and the way he wielded it was dark, and mystifying. This was followed by a short story, "At Dawn They Wake". It was loosely based on the fight between good and evil with Odin and Gabriel personifying them respectively. Once again, picturesque language was what captivated us. Raamesh couldn’t have put it better, “Your words follow you like the rats of Hamlin did the Pied Piper!” And just when we thought what a fantabulous array of fiction and poetry, Titash presented the cherry on the icing. His innocuous-sounding title “The Pressure-cooker” headed a heart-rending tale behind the odd gift that a superrich father gives his daughter for her wedding. I say, he did get the loudest applause!

And finally because it was time and we were still not ready to leave, Neel was allowed an indulgence of two poems, which he considerately kept short. I don’t believe I heard names but the first was unanimously ‘cute’ and the second was read in such a hurry that me and my little brain had hardly enough time to ponder its meaning.

Going back to that first readmeet at Titash’s place, I’m awed by the feeling that we’ve grown so much since then, not just in number (we eventually were 37 people) but also in the kind of work that’s being read out at each readmeet. We had six short stories (five of which were amazing) and about ten poems and a gala time. Come quicker April!

The River Inside Her

“Peace I ask of thee, o River
Peace, peace, peace
When I learn to live serenely
Cares will cease.
From the hills I gather courage
Visions of the days to be
Strength to lead and faith to follow
All are given unto me
Peace I ask of thee, o River
Peace, peace, peace.”

(Camp song – Poet unknown)

Everywhere she looked, vast expanses of rolling green countryside met her eyes, dotted at times with flocks of sheep or a clump of trees, but mostly a velvety green carpet that made her itch to reach out and run her hand on it. Occasionally she spotted a house or two nestled in the hills with their bright red-brick roofs, making her wonder about the people who stayed there, so far away from any conveniences and how they survived in the wilderness. It reminded her of the Arcadian stories of shepherds leading idyllic lives in the mountains, content with driving their flock of sheep every morning out into the mountains and back into their pens at sundown. But could someone really be content with living on cheese, bread and wine for a lifetime? What about the other necessities of life? Surely there was more to life than chasing some wooly creatures around the mountains? Or was there? Was her life more meaningful? Wasn’t she too, chasing something across the countryside?
She broke away from her reverie as the train started approaching flat lands. Within minutes the speeding ICE had entered a city – a quick consultation of the halts mentioned in her map of the train’s route across the country confirmed her suspicion that they were about to enter Frankfurt. Briefly she wondered if she should get down at Frankfurt for a quick visit of the city, then dismissed the thought as she spotted a row of factory-chimneys spewing out black smoke.

No, she wasn’t in the mood for that kind of a city today. Perhaps some other day. For now, her destination was decided. Besides, she had to get there by this evening or she’d lose the job. Ignorant of the admiring glances she was getting from the young man sitting across her, she smiled to herself and thought of how lucky she was to get this wonderful opportunity. This would be the best opportunity she’d gotten ever since she’d started working as an au-pair to finance her voyages across Europe. She’d worked and stayed with families in France, Spain, Italy and Germany in the last three years. She stayed with each family for six months, traveling around the neighbouring towns and villages during weekends, which she insisted were hers and hers alone. During the week, she spent her free time exploring the meandering lanes of the town she was living in, taking pleasure in discovering the quaint nooks and crannies of the city that were known only to the locals, picking up cultural nuances and the local dialects. She’d always been adept at picking up languages and had a fairly good grip over several European languages, so her time spent in these countries had merely polished her mastery of these languages.

“Nächste halte Mannheim.” She looked up startled and started putting away her Discman, book and remnants of the salad she’d picked up at the station in Braunschweig. She had lost track of time, so lost was she in her ruminations of her experiences in these last few years. Pulling down her navy-blue backpack from the overhead compartment, she shrugged it on, shaking her head in a polite but firm refusal when the young man offered to help her with it. Checking that she had taken all her belongings she made her way to the other end of the compartment where her steel-gray valise was stowed away, pulled it out, swinging her long braid back over her shoulder, and joined the queue of people who were waiting to get off at Mannheim. She had three minutes to make her way from platform 4, where this train would pull in, to platform 7, from where she was to catch her next change.

She made it just in time. The train was pulling in just as she stepped out of the elevator on platform 7. Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of the train, a quaint old train run on a coal-engine. This was going to be interesting. As the train trundled its way noisily out of Mannheim, she settled back in her seat. Being the shortest leg of her journey, not to mention the last leg, she decided not to attempt drowning the cacophony of the train with her Discman.

Her senses prickled in excitement as her destination grew closer. The Dortmunds had said they would meet her outside the Heidelberg Bahnhof Eurail counter. She pulled out the photograph they’d sent – their three year old daughter stared back defiantly at the camera, her thumb stuck in her mouth stubbornly despite what looked like a rather valiant attempt her by elder brother to pull it out of her mouth! Mentally crossing her fingers, she hoped they wouldn’t be too difficult to handle. So far she’d had only one troublesome charge – Maria-Jose had been a royal pain in the neck with her constant demands and daily tantrums. It had taken all her patience to keep from giving the girl the beating she deserved. Though she didn’t normally condone corporal punishment for children, this was one time she’d agreed with the adage of spare the rod, spoil the child.

“Wilkommen Fraulein Up-Upadhaya!”

“Upadhyaya. Rema-ni-ka Upadh-ya-ya. It’s wonderful to be here in Heidelberg.”
.......(Since this piece is quite long, I felt guilty about eating up so much screen space on the blog - if this excerpt caught your attention and you feel inclined towards reading it, you can finish reading the story at Literary Mosaic. :-) Comments ofcourse are more than welcome!)

13 March, 2005

A song

It was hard to imagine they were playing a song like that on the radio at prime time, but there it was, an uncontestable truth. He adjusted the headphone in his right ear, and stood on the platform, hands punched into the pockets of his denim jacket, waiting for the Andheri local to come chugging along.

Like a Bridge over troubled waters
/ I will lay me down...

Simon and Garfunkel had always held a special place for him, and it was one of his favourite tunes: one of their most popular tunes, but that did not deflect from its very obvious genius and melody. A woman named Ayesha had called up the radio station and asked the RJ to play this song for her husband, Arun, and he had smiled at the beautiful absurdity of it all. In some way, he had wished he had called up some RJ during the heydays and asked them to play a song for them, but it had never happened. And he could not fathom why.

The train arrived, and the usual eight-o-clock rush almost overwhelmed him, but he stuck close to his target: located the door of the approaching carriage, and stood in a direction not exactly in front of the doorway, but beside it, so that when the train stopped and the steady stream of humanity pushed, shoved, released outwards, he snug in, beneath the extended armpits of a middle-aged Parsi man, and slithered to the middle of the carriage, where the two doors on either side were equidistant. Then he readjusted the headphones. This was the routine.

The Parsi man was wearing a black blazer over a white shirt and grey synthetic trousers. His name was Faraaz, Contractor and he looked at the young man who had slipped in the train, avoiding the angry pushes of the rest of the commuters from Elphinstone Road station. He smiled, it was all so beautifully resilient, somehow: this borrowed pride from a face in the crowd he would probably never see again. The boy was listening to music on his walkman, and his eyes were half-closed, but Faraaz could see that he was alert, as alert as any man could ever be in the throng of a crowded Bombay local. He had a red bag strapped around his shoulders, and while one hand gripped the overhead beam for support, his other hand was curled protectively around the bag. Faraaz thought he could hear the wafting strains of some music from the walkman, and he smiled to himself in the imagined melody. But the train had slowed down for Dadar, and he blanked out momentarily, stiffened himself for the throng that would soon shove its way into the already crowded carriage.

The faceless young men with the red bag around his body and Simon-and-Garfunkel in his soul opened his eyes and looked around. The crush in Dadar had been terrible, but he had been saved the worst part of it, because of his vantage position in the middle, his back against the seats-partition. The song had finished and the RJ was reading out dedications now, but he still found himself thinking about Ayesha and Arun, her husband, dancing in some remote corner of the city, in what could be nothing more than a rented one-bedroom-hall-kitchen, to the strains of the song. A part of him wondered what Ayesha looked like, and what Arun had done for her, that she was this impressed, and a chuckle escaped his lips. He wondered whether he should have taken tips from Arun, and then decided that it would not have been of much use.

Matunga Road was like the quiet breeze just before the storm, Faraaz Contractor thought to himself. He edged slowly towards the interior of the carriage: he had been able to stand the terrible throng at Dadar, but entertained no such illusions about his prospects in Mahim. The junction was not marked a big red in the station-chart that hung overhead, it was a chrome-blue like the other ‘minor’ stops, but the oncoming rush at Mahim was always too terrible to imagine. And, directly after Mahim, came Bandra, a big red circle on the chart.

Faraaz sighed, and wondered why on earth he ever allowed his wife to convince him to move from Colaba, in the first place. But then, he reminded himself that the flat had sold for a good sum like Rehaanaa had said it would, and it had certainly got rid of all the debts they had. Santa Cruz is a nice place to live, really, he mused, but it was the horrendous journey every morning and every evening to and from Churchgate that so irritated him. As he glanced at Red Bag, he wondered not for the first time whether he should buy one of those walkmans and portable radios that he had seen so many of the young men around Bombay hitch onto their waists. And then he gave a little chortle as to how his son’s eyes would widen on seeing him head out to work in the morning with a walkman hitched to his belt. But, aaaaaa, to revel in the music – and he widened his smile in a stream of imagined Beethoven.

Ayesha had come on the line again, and explained to the RJ that her husband had surprised her this morning when she came out of the bathroom with a dozen long-stemmed red roses lying there on the bed, while he himself was no where to be found. The RJ laughed and asked her whether Arun knew she had called up to ask for a special song for him, and Ayesha said, she didn’t think so. That was when the RJ had his brilliant idea of getting Arun’s cell phone number from Ayesha and said, he would give the busy husband a call, so that they would play a little game with him. Ayesha, of course, was quite delighted at the turn of events. The RJ started playing Kiss Me, by Sixpence None The Richer.

In spite of rehearsing his lines, the forthcoming exchange made him smile, as he listened to the RJ’s banter and Ayesha’s obvious excitement. One of the newcomers at Mahim had collided with him, even as he stood by the side, pressed against the partition, but he had ignored the fierce look the Mahim commuter had thrown his way, and tried to catch a breath of fresh air in the crowded train. And he tried to think of his lines, that he was going to tell her, when he reached Khar Road. She would be waiting at the restaurant on S V Road, and he would have to go and tell her the lines he had agonized over for days and nights now. Hearing Simon and Garfunkel talking about troubled waters had not exactly been easy, either.

She would sit at the table he knew so well, away from the busy road, towards the back of the restaurant, with the open window, overlooking the lawns on the right. She would glance at her slim, detailed watch, and frown because he was late, and order starters. She was used to him being late. It would probably be the grilled prawns.

“I’ve been thinking about us - "

Would that do? Or would it seem, as if it was a festering problem..? “I have something to say about us – " But it had been festering, hadn’t it? Hadn’t he better be honest now?

“I want to tell you something – "

Should he pause? For how long? “This is not going to work.”

He hoped it wouldn’t be like in the movies, and she would think he was making a joke. He hoped that she would recognize the import in his voice and eyes and understand what he was saying. She probably would. She was different, in that way. Different, and yet –

“I love spending time with you. I love being with you, - but – "

“There’s nothing else that I can see. I’m not in love with you.”

“I don’t see where we’re going with this – "

Or, “I don’t think we’re going anywhere with this – “

“It would be best to call it off. I don’t think we should go ahead with this – "

“I don’t see myself spending my whole life with you. I’m sorry – “

Did that sound too cavalier, too condescending? Should he apologize? Perhaps it would be better if she could hate him – though he wished she wouldn’t...

“I’m sorry.”

Faraaz Contractor roused himself from the reverie he had suddenly lapsed into, and realized that he had completely missed Bandra. What was the matter with him, he wondered, a bit frustrated at himself. At this rate, I’ll find myself half-way to Borivilli again, like the other day! It won’t do, loosing track of time like this – this would never happen if we were still in Colaba – I never dozed off in the bus! And he chuckled, despite his self-directed ire: Colaba seemed such a long way away now.

He looked sideways at the young man with the walkman who slumped heavily against the partition. He seemed preoccupied with something, and his eyes were closed again: Faraaz thought about shaking him slightly to make sure he didn’t miss his stop, but then he noted the flicker of white below the eyelashes and knew he wasn’t dozing, after all. There was, once again, the faraway gleam of music from his walkman, and Faraaz made up his mind, now. The music was necessary, he decided, if only to distract, if only to attract, if only to make him miss all his stops on his future journeys – and he laughed, because of the bad joke directed at himself. He would tell Rehaanaa tonight.

Khar Road arrived. Arun had been called up by the RJ, and told that his wife had called in to say that she felt neglected by her husband – and had he anything to say in his defence? He had been embarrassed to be questioned like this on air, and he fumbled and hemmed and hawed, and said he had no idea why Ayesha would think this about him. He had always tried to be a good husband, he protested, even as the RJ grilled him about their love life. When the RJ asked him if he had done anything nice lately for his wife, Arun said that, well, he had left a dozen roses on the bedside – and then both Ayesha and the RJ yelled “SURPRISE!!!!” to a flabbergasted Arun. The episode had been successful, the RJ wished the couple all the very best in their life together, the audience level had soared in the last few minutes of the drama, and the RJ invited anyone else who had a personal story of love and life to narrate to call the radio station. As he played Arun’s request, Ayesha by Outkast, the faceless young man in the train patted his red bag protectively again, rechecked his headphones in his ears, and alighted at Khar Road station.

He had news to give, and he walked briskly down the platform towards the overhead walkway, from where he would hire an auto rickshaw to take him to a certain restaurant in S V Road, where a young lady had probably ordered grilled prawns while she waited for him.

Faraaz Contractor stepped off the train at Santa Cruz, and began his own walk down the platform, to climb the overhead walkway. He had a certain skip in his steps, though he would deny it if someone told him so. He was whistling a tune, something he had imagined he heard from the young man’s walkman when he had departed, a station earlier, but it was really an old little melody that Rehaanaa and he had danced to ages ago in their little flat in Colaba, when debts did not seem quite so burdensome. The night was a trifle chilly, but Faraaz never noticed the nip in the air.

12 March, 2005

Grow Your Hair

Grow your hair
a little longer:
So you may learn
how strong shoulders
can make vicious strands of darkness
Grow your hair,
a wayward length -
falling much below your jaw -
So your laughter comes clouded
and so, an eternal fall
lies, listless, on your ears.
Grow some hair too
on your chin:
let the rebellion of a stubble
into the wisdom of a beard.
Let your hair grow
into the challenge of collared shirts;
Grow into the long-haired native
you were born to be.
Let your hair grow:
grow out of the habit
of finesse.
Grow your hair:
a new rebel.
a wistful poet.
a dreadlocked hermit.
a braided tribal warlord.

Grow your hair, so
you grow
into the skin of my dreams.

(C) Annie Zaidi


11 March, 2005


The dreams you traced
With your tongue
On my lips

The tapestry you wove
With your fingers
On my skin

The tears you wiped
With your smile
On my cheeks

The music you played
With your love
In my heart

The fears you erased
With your words
In my mind

The lights you lit
With your eyes
In my soul

The love you created
With your hands
In my hands



Dream Clouds

Clouds that glitter the sky
Clouds that cluster together
White, Black, Silver and Blue
Majestic under the gleaming sun
Moulding and Shaping in the wind
Dreams and thoughts - good and great
Wonder what lining is my name
oh clouds! mould me my perfect dream.


10 March, 2005

Frailty, thy name is...

There are times when love withers away and even though you try to hold on to it, and tell yourself there's more where it came from, you can't keep on fooling yourself. But then, I can't tell you that to your face, for then you'll squint and sigh, and look at me as if I'm a mad man, or worse yet, an infant, and this is just a childish fling I'm having, not understanding, not wanting to understand, that love is about compromise.

That's one thing I find hard to accept. Maybe because I'm the romantic you fell in love with. That love is all about compromise. I know what compromise is about, I've been there, done that, have had my fair share of submitting when I didn't want to, taking when I'd had enough, but I don't ever want to compromise on this last bastion of mine. Is that too terrible a thing to ask for?

But when I look at you, I won't be able to tell you these things. When I look at you, and see the happy glow in your eyes, I will melt, and hold your hand, and pretend that everything is perfect, that I see a future for the two of us together, rose bushes and long highways, hands held together, words of love and passion murmured into your ear, a silly song sung for no reason at all. That's because you believe in some things, and I do not. Does that mean I'm frail, or does that mean I have no discipline inside of me?

Does that mean I'm beaten?

Things I won't forget about you:

1. The fact that I call your eyes wicked, not cute. Your eyes that dance and excite and twirl to no end.

2. That long, long, long walk we took on the stretch of road from the Gateway to the Radio Club, night, partying balloons, noises that erupted, lone gaslight from a lone archaic lamp, hands holding and squeezing, the world at utter chaos and our world an oyster of peace.

3. Buying that bauble at the Kaala Ghoda Festival, cheap, imitation stones, priceless beyond compare, glittering, teamed up with mehndi for your hands, cheap, imitation, priceless, laughter, cheap, real, expensive.

4. Candles on the floor of my apartment, on the windowsills, on the bed sideboards, on the table top, on the cupboard top, tall flames, swaying and sashaying, still sentinels in a gusty breeze, and my hungry, hungry lips and my hungry, hungry soul that needed to devour you, and have you close to me for the entire night.

5. That short walk behind Athena, watching trawlers, boats, speeders course their way through the water, point out the Navy land far to the left, near the Gateway, the awestruck lovers sitting here and there in the shade, in the relative desertion of the day, tall banyan trees covering us with their shadows, and a single kiss exchanged that thrilled fingertips that touched.

So many, many more instances that evoke so much, and weaken me when I think about you and me and nothingness. Was it all worth nothing, you would ask me, and I would have no answer. I would have an answer, but it would not help if I gave it to you, for what would I say? Yes, you meant a lot to me, yes, I love you, yes, you mean a lot to me, yes, I'm being foolish in leaving you for I don't know when I will next find someone as magical as you, someone to love me as much as you do, yes, yes, yes, I'm a fool, but then you would glint triumphantly at me, and say these are all reasons why I should stay... Yet, go I must.

Silly, stupid sentiment. Sentiment battles with the sea, an odd line my imagination throws up, as I sit here, waiting for you, gazing at the Gateway which rears up its head; like a tall ornate four poster bed. There are crowds about, balloon-sellers, pimps who roam even during the day, unafraid of the consequences (should I learn something from them?), families on a Sunday romp, squeals and shrieks and laughter and excitement, and through the haze, I see you coming towards me, eyes laughing, hair waving, lips creased into the most divine smile I have ever seen you throw my way. I laugh, and I hug you, (do you hug me too tight?), and I will myself to be strong, strong, strong, if only for a day, if only for an instant, if only for a second.

Inane conversation follows - "Marvelous day", "How's work?", "You want to eat something?", "I had to wake up SOOOO early today, I'm SOOO tired!", "I love you", "The other day, I heard this outrageous piece of gossip", "God, that kid is SOOO cute!", "When do you have to be back?", "My shoes are killing me?", "Coffee?"

She sips her mocha and watches him. He's distracted, she can tell. But he's not ready to tell her yet, and she can wait for him. She's waited for him for so long already. To give himself to her completely, the way she's surrendered herself. At times, she feels a twinge of ache, whether he will really ever summon up the courage to tell her - and what then?

Courage can go both ways, her father used to tell her, when she was young, on the shooting range. It can make a man, or it can destroy a man. And the man doesn't know till the very last instant what it is he has signed himself up for. She would listen to her father's voice, gentle and strong, undulating yet firm, holding her hands steady on the gun, as she fired. Courage was a dangerous thing, she had learnt in her own life, so she smiled at this man across the table from her, who seemed distracted, and flashed silly smiles her way, and asked her what dessert she would like to have.

"What are you thinking of?" he asked her, somewhat at calm now, helped by the strong reassurance in her sea-green eyes. Strange that something that ought to terrify him in his moment of truth should so embolden him, he thought vaguely, but let it pass.

"I was thinking about something my father had said, a long time ago," she smiled, and brushed her hair back, and sat back on the chair. "Something about what makes people the way they are, and what people do themselves to change that."

He gave a nervous laugh, "That sounds very high-brow to me."

"Does it? Perhaps... It seems so commonplace to me, really. To imagine that a person can change his own life in an instant, with a word or a gesture or an action - in ways that even he cannot know the consequence of - "

He reached out a hand and touched her palm. She was cool to the touch - amazing, he thought, after that walk along the Gateway in the afternoon. But this was the way he liked her best, when she had these little thoughts that came to her unbidden, and she shared them with him, at ease with herself and with him, as if this was the way it was meant to be, an eternity of semi-silence together with no awkward pauses. He wondered why those awkward pauses came to him, alone, when he was without her, and yet, when she was there, they seemed to - disappear?

And he asked himself again that hated question - was it because he was frail?

"What do you think about weakness?" he asked her, suddenly, pushing his finished cup of cappuccino away to one side, and squeezing her hand gently again.

"Weakness? I'm not sure it exists, really."

"That's just the eternal optimist in you talking," and he felt the tide of familiar irritation again - this was how he hated her, with her self-assured swagger and her turn of knowing almost anything there was to know under the sun, that there was good, good, good under the world, and nothing else... Well, she was wrong, he was sure, and she would learn that, he was weak, and not all of her imagined strengths could save them, because he was weak, it was just the way he was, and yet, there was no room for compromise.

She laughed now, "No, it's not. It's not weakness I'm worried about, to tell the truth. It's courage. The feeling of having too much of it. The feeling of being invincible, when you think you have it. My father used to tell me that. Courage can drive a man in either direction, when he thinks he knows the answers, but does he really? He thinks he's doing the big thing, the right thing, but how on earth does he know what will happen in the future - one, two weeks, one, two months... it is imagined courage that scares me the most, not weakness, because weakness is also the manifestation of an imagined lack of courage - "

Something was stirring within him, the fear - and he suppressed it with a laugh - "Sounds like too much imagination to me!"

Her only response was a smile. He would understand, though he would pretend not to. That was the way he was, and she had accepted him for it. There were other more important things than surety she looked for in a person to be in love with, other more important things, and she had found them in him, though he still seemed unsure of his worth, of his importance, of his courage - but she would give him his time, she thought, she would give him his time.

"Shall we go?" she smiled again, her mocha done.

It was the moment of truth now, for him, and he hesitated. But it was the moment of truth, he countered against himself, and so he must not hesitate. Compromise, but not in this. I have to learn for myself, I have to decide for myself. I have to find love, even if the search kills me, and though I may be frail. So I stop, and squeeze her hands again (am I seeking some sort of affirmation from her?), and the glinting sea-green depths of her eyes suddenly makes it easier for me to tell her what I must. It's about my life, and I may be selfish, but I warned you about me a long time ago, and I must not let memories (happy memories!) divert me now... Jumbled thoughts, a kaleidoscope of ideas and reasons, and I finally say, "No. Let's wait awhile. I have - something to tell you..."

She knew what it was.

Pause for a non-lit break

There's an issue of some importance that i've tabled for discussion on my blog and more specifically, on Chien(ne)s Sans Frontières. It deals with bloggers and their freedom of expression. Certainly not a burning concern on this blog, but as Martin Niemöller said,
When the Nazis arrested the Communists,
I said nothing;
after all, I was not a Communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats,
I said nothing;
after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists,
I said nothing;
after all, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested the Jews,
I said nothing;
after all, I was not a Jew.
When they arrested me,
there was no longer anyone who could protest.
Update 1. There's an online petition which you can read here, and if you agree, sign here

09 March, 2005

little people

each upbeat morning, we read the papers
with sons and mothers, we watch the evening news
in the glow of our screens, we read poetry
we cry over tsunami victims
we anguish over iraq, kashmir, palestine.
but somewhere
something is missing
something that is not news
something happening to someone,
somewhere nearby.
it's so near, it's not news,
it's so everyday, it's not news.

even as you read this
even as PR agencies flood our senses
with polio vaccines
and the multinationals kill each year
with drug IPR
what is not news
is how thousands of our babies
die, their mewling stilled
by sheer poverty.
not one month old they die
they need vaccination
love, breastfeeding, oil massage...
the cost -
fifty rupees per person

no one reads it -
impoverished babies
can't sell papers.

in this one nation
a million lives
extinguished each year.
thirty thousand a day
two babies each minute
somewhere near you

while you read this,
eight babies
stopped kicking
sixteen glazed-over eyes
are looking at you.

mere apathy.

A large fraction of babies - about 4.3% for India, die
within the first month of life. The numbers are half
of this in Indonesia or China, and one-tenth in the
developed nations.

The March 3 issue of the medical journal
Lancet says that a majority of these deaths can be
avoided by simple measures such as vaccination for
mothers, prompt and exclusive breastfeeding, clean
delivery, etc., the total cost of which is under $1 for
every person on earth. In other words, we merely have
to care about it.