.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

31 July, 2005

riff 7

That you should be here
Is not in doubt;
There's hot tea here
And it's raining out.
There's chocolate,
And me, here,
Don't question it
You should be here.


Salaam Bombay

So you're back, old friend, unbowed,
a little damp, thirsty perhaps.
(Ironic, isn't it? Floods,
but no water in the damn taps?)

And you're telling brave stories
via email and SMS:
How many kilometres
you walked; how long it took; the mess

you walked through; and wasn't it sad
that we still haven't got a
disaster management plan;
oh, you read the new H Potter?

It's business as usual,
you're back, you're selling things.
You're picking up the phone
after the requisite two rings

Is it resilience? Pluck?
Or just that you need that pay
cheque? Whatever your reason
I'm glad you're back. Salaam, Bombay.


A Not Unlikely Reply to "Letter of Resignation..."

We are in receipt of your letter dated…
and are constrained to note
that you adopt a tone unbefitting
a subordinate – and we quote…
While we’ve no objection to your quitting,
please be informed that approval’s awaited.

We cannot but observe - and we could cite -
that you speak most insultingly of those
who, you must know, are your superiors.
The tenor of your communication shows
your contempt or, what’s more serious,
seems to suggest a deliberate slight.

You’ve called our beloved CEO a sod,
a word we’ve carefully looked up and find
is short for sodomite: a grave imputation
not just unwarranted, but unkind
in view of his well earned reputation
as a family man, and a man of God.

As for the comic army you mention,
please be informed that we’re outraged.
The idea is monstrous, you seem to imply
that we’re jokers ossified and aged:
a bunch of geriatrics who refuse to die,
and who’d be better off with a pension!

Your insolence merits disciplinary action.
However, we’re compelled to take a lenient view
(oddly, you have friends in our higher ranks
who have good things to say about you,
and it’s to them you owe your thanks),
and dismiss it as a minor infraction.

You’ve been trouble, say what you will, but
the fates and a few have been indulgent:
you’ve got by on your language and brains
(the one useless and the other redundant),
and forever have caused us posterior pains.
And by the way, who on earth is Gilbert?



28 July, 2005

Sha No Varuna

Sha No Varuna
Pune, 27 July, 2005
I have known that tree since it was a little sapling. It was a banyan – the king of trees – and it grew from a little fig cast upon my shores one day. It is a long time since, I’ve forgotten when. At first it was an innocuous little plant. Many years went by, and it became a big shrub, several feet high. That is when it started irritating me.

It blocked my view of the city. The city grew up slowly, almost along with the tree. It was a little village at first, located on a tiny island. I, Sagara, looked upon it as my child. It was inhabited by humble folk, who set out at the high tide every day to fish in my deep waters. Before they climbed into their boats, they poured out their heart to me, begging of me to be kind to me with the three words that please me most – Sha No Varuna! – Be kind, O Varuna. Tremulously they steered their craft and cast their nets, hoping and praying that I would give them many fish and no woes. They were a happy, contented lot – they took what I gave them, and were silent when I took from them what was my due.

Strange men from other shores landed here. They were not afraid of my might, even though they lost many of their kin to my currents. They knew the winds like no one else, and reached far and wide across the Earth. They came to be masters of these shores. They had one God, and He was not I. I was angry. I sent a storm to torment a shipload of these men, but their God intervened. Their fervent prayer brought them in safety to this shore, which they called kindly the Good Bay. And from the time they landed here, the village was never the same again.

A great city grew in its place. And that was when the tree first came into my notice, for it obstructed the grandest of the new humans’ constructions. I liked to see the setting sun’s rays reflected on it’s great dome every evening. I sent out little waves at first, to loosen the soil around its roots. It held firm. I sent out bigger waves. The little fishermen were frightened – they knew I was angry. But not the ‘cityfolk’. They just said the sea was a bit rough. But the tree stood rooted as ever.

I resigned myself to this little tree that spoiled the view, and turned my attention to other shores and other sights. But after a long time I yearned to see my beloved island again. It had grown beyond the little island I allowed it. These men, these strange fearless men, had put rocks and sand between two of my little islands to make a bigger one. They had dared to take what I had never given. I respected their courage, and let them be. I looked for the dome instead. The little shrub had become a tree now, and spread a little canopy. It blocked the dome, and I could see the sunset’s glow no longer. I raged. I sent out a storm. My waves lashed against the tree. Clouds poured out over it. The cityfolk ran amok, piteously screaming for shelter. But the tree held its ground.

My ire was now no longer appeased. My shores were quiet no longer. The poor fisherfolk trembled. Offerings of every kind were poured to me. Their livelihoods suffered, their children starved. They pleaded for mercy – ‘Sha No Varuna, Sha No Varuna’. They knew my anger, but knew not what caused it. They thought it was the greed of the city, but I cared not for it.

Undeterred, the city continued to crave. The little archipelago disappeared, replaced by a monolith of a landmass, over which many tall things sprouted. Made of stone and mortar, these were immune to the monsoon. They stood firm, even as the fishermen’s huts collapsed in the voluminous rain. These things were hungry for land, as they multiplied. Tetrapods were thrown on the rocky shores, big walls were built to keep out the brine. The people of this new era knew my whims, and knew how to tackle them.

Their antics protected the tree. It had become a giant now, and had begun to plant new trunks like its ilk. It became a centre for worship, and I was forgotten slowly. No more were the humans supplicating me, no more did I enjoy the taste of coconuts and flowers. No more the mixture of reverence and fear – all that went to the tree, that became greater and greater. My waters, more turbulent than ever, raged and dashed against the walls that protected it. I summoned my energies, and unleashed another storm on the city. My surf rose several yards into the air, and crashed on the walls of the city. Winds ripped through the city, blowing away roofs and rendering the poor homeless. Several trees, big and small, met an untimely death and decayed in the damp air. The rains flooded the streets, washing away all int their midst. But the banyan, it remained firm.

For years it remained there, defiant to my threats. It collected the people even more now, who revered it as a protector from my ravages. For years I seethed furiously, capsizing boats, drowning swimmers, sapping the foundations of stone buildings. I became as feared as I was earlier. ‘Sha No Varuna’ the humans cried again. Be calm, O Sea! O Sagara, why do you rage so? But I was not satisfied.

Another monsoon came, and my pent up rage finally found vent. The rain poured for days. The city was flooded and hundreds drowned – humans, dogs, cows. Huts were washed away, the winds blew away all that came in their way. Buildings, which I had sapped for years, collapsed crushing all those within them. Metal was twisted and concrete shattered. Thousands of trees fell under the force of my torment, and millions of birds and other creature perished in their nests. I laid the city waste, and let loose fear and disease among the survivors. The unceasing urbs, that had stood there like a defiant middle finger at me, finally surrendered to my might.

And the tree had fallen at last. Its great canopy was broken into countless pieces of rotting foliage strewn over the mud. The many trunks were snapped and broken, they lay like faggots at a funeral. The roots were exposed, and they lay in the sun, white and withering. And its great trunk, that had stood for years an object of proud defiance, lay prostate, in final submission.

I am calm again, and my kindness is upon ye again. Sha No Varuna.

EOF. 1135 words.
[Varuna – Hindu God of the Waters]

26th July 2005

and we lie next to each other in darkness
wearing dead skin on our body
stillness pouring out in cold sweat
forming damp maps on the sheet

and we lie silently with our eyes wide open
thinking of places we had imagined to be
of smells that filled our fingernails
of tastes that lingered on our eyelashes

and we slowly breathe in the wetness
of words unspoken
of wrinkles untouched

next to each other
quietly alone


Evening Haze

I’m not a slave to romance. Yet there are sights that bring out the sadomasochist in me. I’m standing on top of the westernmost ramparts of the Lal Qila, and I can’t help feeling out of place here. This is the world I pander to, the Slave in me whimpers, and the Rationalist in me laughs. I’ve always been schizophrenic, a mistress of many moods, and I’ve come to realize that.

This is Delhi, my adopted home.

I’ve spent my day in Chandni Chowk, looking for a shop that would repair my Vivitar camera. I finally found one. Everyone finds what they’re looking for in Chandni Chowk. The place is an auctioneer’s three wishes come true, the mother of all bargain basements. At all times, it buzzes with activity, from the shops that have sprung up, repairing and selling cameras and watches, both the genuine and the cheap look-alikes, and the stalls with chiffons and net georgette billowing in the wind, to the blinding flash of a bangle shop. This is the part of Delhi that gets you, the Ostentatious tells the Quiet, and the Quiet nods her head in response. The Mediator smiles at her two selves for now, while looking out over the ramparts of the Red Fort. It is a battle far from over, for, very soon, the Quiet will take an opportunity to lord over the Ostentatious. Meanwhile, the Atheist breathes in deeply, and takes in the view.

How strange it is, the Querulous wonders. I’ve lived here in this city for close to seven years now, yet this is my first proper visit to the fort. My first visit, since I was a five-year old child in a powder blue jumpsuit, walking along with the customary traveling pair of Bengali parents. (Bengalis travel – that’s what we do, intrepid pioneers of the first order!) Of course, I don’t remember much from that first trip, and I have to depend, instead, on the glossy photographs in the glossy album, with the picture of a sultry woman on top, too much dark red lipstick. This was a long overdue trip, I know, says the Finalist to the Querulous, who is satisfied for some time.

“Have I seen you before?” he says now, interrupting the Slave’s entropy, the Rationalist’s reason, the Quiet’s planning, the Ostentatious’ revelry, the Quiet’s truce, the Querulous’ satisfaction and the Finalist’s answer. “You look familiar.”

“I’m sorry I don’t think so.” But no, I’m not sure, really. The Querulous is bubbling with a new question now: could he be…? The Quiet is suckling on a finger.

“Are you sure? Are you Bengali? Perhaps, in Calcutta?” The crow’s feet around his eyes are strangely exciting, the Ostentatious notes, and smiles in quiet mystery, imitating the Quiet.

I think back now, and a part of me remembers something, a brief encounter, a shared walk down a tree-lined road – “In front of the Grand Hotel? The Bookshop?”

He laughs, a sound that seems to fill our immediate surroundings, and I feel myself smile with him. (The Rationalist is stumped, and can’t think why.) For I remember him. That’s the one. He’s the one. The one in front of the book stall before the Grand Hotel, in Calcutta. Not very long ago, actually. The Ostentatious smiles again, glad to have her guess proved right.

“Aa, yes! The bookshop, and then we walked down Chowringhee, but you took the metro at Maidan. How was the book, by the way? Have you read it?”

A copy of Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, and my own multiple Children smile in delight at the thought. The book had been well read, and sat now, on top of my bookshelf back home in GK. I have a very neatly arranged bookshelf, and another one for music, the Atheist surges in pride.

“I have. It’s a brilliant book. But what brings you here to Delhi? This is such a complete surprise, seeing you here!” The wind is toying with the light cotton stole I’ve wrapped around my shoulders, and he rescues the sash that threatened to blow away. Delhi is like that, you know – free.

He smiles and comes closer. The Mediator does not mind, the Quiet is a bit shocked, but is shushed down by the Querulous, who wants to know more, as usual. “Well, I think I told you that I have relatives here – in CR Park. My cousin just passed his college exams, so I came down for a quick visit. And where do you stay?”

“South Delhi. GK.”

“GK? Phase one or two? I’m in Phase Two myself.” We’re walking back towards the Queen’s hamam. Whitewashed now, once inlaid with precious stones and jewels. Whitewashed now.

“I thought you were in CR Park... how come GK?” I play with him, and the Ostentatious smirks in approval. The Slave is a little worried, however.

He smiles again, and says, “No, I said, my relatives live there. I prefer not to stay there when I’m in Delhi. My company has a guesthouse in GK Two, M-block, and I usually stay there. Very nice place.”

“I’m in M-block, too.” Demure? I like him. I liked him then, at the tea shop in front of the Maidan metro station in Calcutta, but I thought it strange to have tea with him then. But this is Delhi. This is my turf. How strange an effect territory can have on a person, the Querulous wonders, and the Mediator shrugs in response.

“What a coincidence,” he says, in the tone of a man who never believes in coincidences, and the Rationalist in me laughs. I find him funny, I find myself retarded at times, perhaps it’s the place that does this to me.

“So, what do you have planned for the day?” he asks, as we pause in front of the red sandstone gateway. Brilliant view, the Atheist sighs, but I don’t’ know whether she’s talking about the man or the fort, smirks the Ostentatious.

“I should ask you that. You’re the tourist here. What do you plan to do, after the Red Fort?”

“Well, actually, I wanted to catch the son et lumiere show they have here. I’ve heard a lot about it. It’s supposed to be very good. Would you like to watch it with me? It should start within a few minutes. It’s already begun to darken.”

I’d planned on doing the same. My camera had been given for repair. I had taken leave from work for this. I had nothing else planned for the day. A sound and light show at the Lal Qila had seemed like a good idea, the perfect way to round up my day at Chandni Chowk, so I said, ‘yes’.


There are few things as romantic as a kiss in the evening haze. Some things that are supposed to be, are not really so. That doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure what does. How do I explain it all? I’ve never been one for talking tall. I’ve never been one for expressing myself. It’s simply too much trouble. People have all these preconceived notions about me, for some reason, and most of my effort goes in trying to dispel those, in the first place. Like the one she had, of me in CR Park. Or, when she thought, back in Calcutta, that I was one of those hundreds of educated intellectuals roaming the streets of a dying megapolis in the eternal quest for something… atheistic.

But she was different this evening, from that first time I saw her, hunched over a bookseller’s wares in the Grand Arcade in Calcutta. She seemed less skittish, less poised to run. There was something that teased me here, and something in her that delighted in that. I like her multiple selves. I liked the fact that a thousand lips, and a thousand souls behind those thousand lips, kissed me back, when I reached over.

What was the sound and light show about? A different age, and different people. An emperor who lived in an old India, and built castles and forts, and defended his empire. He levied fabulous tribute from his vassals, and his people lived in prosperous harmony. A princess who skipped through the lanes of Chandni Chowk, and bought glass bangles, and her mother who distributed gold mohurs in payment for the glass trinkets that her daughter picked up. Another foolish king who wined and dined away his kingdom, playing with his harlots, while the enemy burnt his castle down, so that he fled, forever reviled by his former people. And an earlier emperor, an amorous one, who built the world’s most famous monument to love.

Her kiss was hungry. Soft and searching at first, not sure as to what she may find. Something a good Bengali girl has been taught to do, through generations of self induced hesitation. And then the lustful abandon, as she decided to take the plunge. That makes it seem almost vulgar. But that is, what it was. Abandon, and even vulgar. A conscious decision to open her mouth, flirt with my tongue, lick my oral cavity, bite my lips, feel the flush and rejoice in the power. I was that mad king with his harlots, but I had a thousand here, while he only had a hundred. My thousand girls were so much better attuned to what both I and they needed, and they loved me.

A word I am ever unsure of, and try to run away from. A whole world, rather than a word.

25 July, 2005

For the benefit of termites

it is in the nature of woodwork
to remain fragile, tender chlorophyll
could not have said it better
while feeding the leaves of grass;
slow decay is how it happens, eats
from the inside and crumbles
the inner resolve
like words that scar
and wound the soul

obliterating the man

(c) Ashish Gorde


24 July, 2005

Letter of Resignation Unlikely to be Tendered

Please be informed that I wish to leave.
To retire while my mind is whole –
a miracle in itself, when you consider
three decades and more of battered soul,
the price I’ve paid for being an outsider.
It’s time I returned to what I believe.

In the thirty years or more aforesaid
I’ve seen brains scoured with caustic soap:
the kind that purged natural law and reason
and left spines snapped beyond hope -
for decrying the absurd was high treason.
I’ve seen lives shambled, and some dead.

I’ve lived and survived better than most
( to be sure, there weren’t too many of me).
I gave a damn or half for the corporate climb -
you know, I’ve hated grease since I was three!
So I ploughed my furrow, did my time…
That you couldn’t have me was my boast.

Please be further informed that God
doesn’t sit on the eighteenth floor. Not all
your cravenness can make that worthy
whom you fear more than mortal,
nor adulation make him less than earthy:
like you and me, he’s just another sod.

Be informed I’ve had enough. Enough of paper,
enough of your mindless comic army
that would have done Gilbert proud:
any more of this and I’d be driven barmy.
And not caring, I can afford to say it aloud.
I’m through with this stupid career caper.

And yes. Lastly, please find enclosed a snap.
A mountainscape, as you can see. And lest
you jump to conclusions, it isn’t the Swiss
or Austrian Alps where your kind recuperate or rest,
but something closer home you miss –
and thank God (mine) it’s off your map.



23 July, 2005

The Bridegroom’s Widow

Mai Ehda Poot Jun, Jehda Raan Partap
Akbar Suto Oj Ko, Jaan Sirhaney Saanp

O Mother, give birth to sons like Rana Pratap
Whose heat dries the blood of emporers, who wear dangers as their crown

The plains of Mehrangarh lay in black silence. The night was in her second quarter. From somewhere in the darkness came the howling of wolves, the barking of dogs and an intermittent call of a night owl. From the top of the hill, Mehrangarh fort threw an orange glow into the night, like a black ogre keeping vigil over its domains with a fiery eye.

A bell rang high above the silence. In the towers and the ramparts of the fort the watch changed. The captain of the first watch handed over the charge to his peer. Soon however, the commotion died and the night fell asleep again.

And then a black mass crept up to the fort. Undetected, it passed the watch towers and walls in the front and disappeared. Once beyond the main watch, it took the shape of a man. He moved slowly but steadily in the darkness, towards the rearmost tower of the fort.

A low whistle - a signal - that was returned with another whistle from above. Then a rope ladder was let down the tower wall. With practiced hands the man scaled 25 feet of granite.

"Rajkumari" he whispered in the darkness. A woman emerged and immediately clung to him. The couple stood there, locked in passionate embrace, their mouths seeking each other. Lost in passionate love-making, they forgot everything around them. The gong for the third quarters watch brought them back to the present.

The lovers separated and listened intently with bated breath. Noises in the distance. But here on the furthest tower, nothing. No footsteps, no noises. They breathed a sigh of relief.

"Kunwar, it’s been three months since I saw you last. These separations are becoming unbearable now. Each day seems a century. And maharanasa is looking for suitors for me. He has taken a liking for Bikram Bhalla. I cannot hold him much longer. You must go and seek my hand from him. "

Kunwar Mangalsingh stood up and walked to the edge of the tower. He stood there staring into the dark expanse before him.

"Rajkumari, I come straight from meeting Maharana Ummed Singhji."

"You met maharana sa!! Where? When? How? Did you ask my hand from him? What did he say?" Rajkumari Nishigandha’s voice had both surprise and apprehension.

Kunwar Mangalsingh turned to face her. A wry smile on his lips. "Too many questions Rajkumari.” he came and sat close to her, holding her in his arms.

The Rajkumari made a half-hearted effort to push him away, but remained in his arms, "Please Kunwar, this is no time for romance. I cannot bear this separation and secrecy any more."

He let her go this time. The smile faded from his lips. The amorous glitter in his eyes faded into a faraway look.

"I met Maharanasa at the annual fair of the goddess Kali at Chikola. Did you know that your uncle has set a price for your hand? Or should I say a competition - the winner of which shall carry you away.” the Kunwar stopped and looked at her questioningly.

"Kunwar, I beg of you. Don’t speak in puzzles. The night will soon be gone. Tell me all you know for I know nothing of this, except that Bikram Bhalla has approached my uncle for my hand."

"Yes. And your uncle would have had you married to him. He has his own interests in doing so. The military strength of Bikram Bhalla's mercenaries makes him a lucrative choice as a nephew-in-law. If you had been the Maharana's own daughter, you would have been Bikram's bride by now. Mother Kali be praised you are his neice and he is not as free."

"At the fair of Chikola I upset your uncle's plan by asking for your hand in public. Rajput law ordains that he must now seek your will, for he is your uncle and not your father. If you choose either of us the matter is settled. If you stay silent, there will be a duel." Kunwar Mangalsingh stopped and looked at Rajkumari Nishigandha.

She had been listening silently. Slowly she realized the predicament she was in. In the distance, the first fingers of dawn were visible, peeling off night’s black veil. As the light outside grew, she felt darkness within.

"What is the duel?" she asked, without meeting Mangalsingh's eyes.

"On the day of Devi amavasya, the one who wins Devigarh for the Maharana will obtain your hand in return."

Dark despair set on the princess's heart. Her uncle had set an unfair duel. She knew that Mangalsingh would never be able to win.

Devigharh - the mountain fort of Kali. A fort protected not by armies but the blessing of the Goddess. Devi amavasya fell on the fifth night after the fair at Chikola. Legend had it that the crown of Devigarh belonged to the royal head that touched the Devi's feet and sacrificed a life at the altar on this night.

"Rajkumari", the Kunwar's voice broke Nishigandha's reverie. "By Rajput law your uncle cannot give your hand to someone without your consent. Nor can he hold duel if you chose someone first. I am a banished prince with no army. I have just 50 loyal followers. Bikram Bhalla's mercenaries will form a wall that my men will never be able to cross. I cannot go into battle with them for it would mean suicide for my men. They would not stand a single chance and will all be wiped out. I am not a coward. But neither am I heartless. I will not lead my men to death for my personal gain. Tomorrow at court the maharana will ask your wish. Say the word and I shall carry you away as my bride. But if you choose to stay silent, I will have to go into battle to protect my family name. It is not for me that I ask you this. It is for my men.”

It took Nishigandha a few minutes to mask the tempest raging inside her heart. When at last she spoke, her voice was ice cold, devoid of any emotion, "Kunwar Mangalsingh, deep is my love for you, but deeper still is my sense of duty for my uncle and his house. After the death of my beloved father, the Maharana has brought me up like his own daughter. It is only right now that I act like a daughter of this house. I will not speak tomorrow at court. I shall choose to die than cause disgrace to my uncle and his house. You must win me in the duel. And, mother Kali forbid, if you lose, Bikram Bhalla shall find a dead bride on his wedding night."

Without waiting for Mangalsingh's reply, without even looking at his face, princess Nishgandha ran into the darkness, towards her quarters.

Kunwar Mangalsingh stood for sometime looking into valley below. Then he climbed down the way he had come and disappeared into the early morning fog.


The fort of Devigarh stood on the eastern edge of the Chikola lake, surrounded by a vast expanse of cultivation. A silent guardian of the point, where the three most powerful provinces of Rajputana converged - Hadot, Mewar and Shekhawati.

It was a small fort, built on a gradual slope that rose to a height of 70 feet at the farthest end. On one side it overlooked the lake. The main entrance faced the cultivated plains of the valley. It had low walls of average thickness that started at the foothill and skirted the entire hill. At the very centre of the fort stood the Kali mandir - the nerve centre of the fort, with the goddess distinctly visible from far outside.

The fort was evidently not made for any military purpose. There were no moats or trenches around. There were no watch-towers, no nail studded, narrow doors, no steep tortuous stairways. Its door had never been shut and its ramparts had never been watched over by sword bearing soldiers. Devigarh's construction had more symbolism than martial tactic or political will.

Devigarh had never seen a siege, nor been transgressed by an army ever. What use was a fort that had no military significance? A fort which was the centre of strong religious beliefs of the entire Rajputana was more of a political liability than a strategic asset. Kings of the province had always let Devigarh be - governed by its head priest - waiting for a royal heir to claim it by fulfilling the legend.

But all that changed that year, on the morning of Devi amavasya. At the break of dawn there came the sound of men and animals outside the fort. When the priests came out after the morning aarti, they were greeted by a sight that none had seen ever. Armed men had surrounded Devigarh from all sides. The siege of Devigarh had begun and Bikram Bhalla waited at the gates, for evening to arrive so that he could enter and perform the sacrifice.

Sometime in the afternoon Maharana Ummed Singh arrived and camped at a distance from the fort. In the camp was also princess Nishigandha, staring at a small vial in her hand, her face as pale as the early morning sky. With supreme fortitude that was characteristic of a Rajpoot woman, she had resigned herself to destiny. As news of the duel spread, hundreds of men from nearby villages, gathered on the plains.

But it seemed like vain siege. Kunwar Mangalsingh was nowhere in sight. The sun traced its trajectory in the sky, and dawn turned to dusk. As the hour of sacrifice approached, the princess heaved a sigh of sad relief. At least the Kunwar had not been foolish to ride to his own death.

Meanwhile Bikram Bhalla, with a smile on his face prepared for the pooja and sacrifice - ready to be crowned king of Devigarh.

As the sun started setting, the priests started preparing for the sandhyaarti. In another hour the duel would be won. Bikram Bhalla's thoughts were about the body of the princess, praises of whose beauty he had heard far and wide.

In the midst of drums and trumpets a goat was prepared for the royal sacrifice - washed in milk and chandan and fed green leaves. Amidst much fanfare and cheering from his men, Bikram Bhalla started walking the fifty metres from the gate of the fort to the temple. His men followed, leaving there posts and breaking the siege.

And at that moment, over the horizon, the silhouette of two riders could be seen against the red glow of the setting sun. They rode fast, one with a naked sword and the other with a raised spear at the tip of which fluttered the standard of the Hada family.

The riders approached at lighting speed towards the fort. And as they came closer, people recognized with a gasp of surprise that it was Kunwar Mnagalsingh and his trusted lieutenant Yudhvir Singh.

Neither Bikram Bhalla nor his men saw the riders approaching. Rapidly the riders covered the ground, past the stupefied villagers, past the camp of the dumbstruck Maharana, closer and closer to the fort. No one knew what was going on. Kunwar Mangalsingh had arrived, but why was he alone? Where were his men? How would he stop Bikram Bhalla from performing the sacrifice and winning the duel?

Princess Nishigandha ran out of her tent, tears streaming down her cheeks. She caught a glimpse of her prince striding by on horseback, 6 feet of shining metal armor, and a resolute face. That fleeting glimpse of the Kunwar’s face was sufficient to tell her the entire story. She understood his plan immediately. At that instant she felt a surge of pride and great love for this man who rode to his death. Pain was the last thing on her mind. Like generations of Rajpootanis before her, she bade goodbye to her warrior with a smile on her lips and a glitter in her eyes.

All eyes were now on the two riders. They expected them to dash into Bikram Bhalla’s men and be killed in an instant.

Then, something strange happened. Yudhvir singh slowed down and the Kunwar started gaining speed. When the Kunwar was fifty metres from Bhalla and his men, he gave a heart rendering roar that rose above the noise of the drums and trumpet and for a second froze everyone to their spot.

"Bikram Bhalla, I challenge you", the Kunwar raised his sword and came to a grinding halt.

Bikram turned, mockery written all over his face. The game was up. There was no way Mangalsingh could win the duel now. His men formed an impregnable wall between the Kali temple and this man.

"Kunwar Mangalsingh. The duel is over. There is no way that you can cross my men and reach the Devi's temple before me. Don’t be foolish. Accept defeat and go back. I spare your life on this happy occasion", Bikram shouted back.

“You fool, you mercenaries will never understand the value of honor. We Hadas care more for our honor than for our lives. The duel is not over yet.” and saying so, he raised his sword in the air and shouted "Maa kaali ki jai".

As if at a signal, Yudhvir Singh, who had now fallen about hundred metres behind his prince, gained speed and started down like a lighting towards the prince. As he approached he increased his speed. 75 metres and more speed. 50 metres and more speed. And now Yudhvir Singh raised his spear and leveled it for a throw. Kunwar mangalsingh stood still in his tracks, with sword raised in mid air above him.

What happened next has gone down in the history of Rajputana as one of the bravest acts ever performed by a king to protect his name and his men. It happened in a flash, before anyone could even realize it.

As Yudhvir Singh came close, with another sky-tearing cry of "Jai Maa Kaali" Kunwar Mangalsingh, raised his hand and with one single stroke cut of his own head. The body stood still for a fraction of a second, before beginning to limp. But at that very moment, Yudhvir Singh caught the falling head of his prince in his spear, and sped onward towards the dumbfounded men around the fort.

And then, at the peak of his momentum, when he was just going to crash into the first line of Bhalla's men, Yudhvir lifted his arm and let go of the spear with one mighty heave, Mangalsingh's head impaled upon it.

The projectile flew, over the low walls, past the men, past Bikram Bhalla, and with uncanny accuracy, landed at the temple steps, near the feet of the Goddess Kali. At the impact, the royal head, now mutilated by the spear, came lose and skidded across the floor to touch the feet of the goddess.

Yudhvir Singh crashed and broke through the lines of Bhalla’s men and shouting “Maharana Mangal Singh ri Jai”, crashed into the walls of Devigarh.

It all happened in five minutes. Like some well rehearsed trapeze act in a circus. The speeding lieutenant with his leveled spear, the prince cutting his head off, the impaled head on the spear and the mammoth throw. To those who saw it happen in front of their eyes, it seemed like a bad dream. But the headless body of the Kunwar on the field and the royal head on the Devi’s altar told them all that it was not.

At that very moment, the sound of a conch declared the duel complete and the legend fulfilled. In those five minutes, Devi Amavasya had started and the priests began the aarti of Kali. In the camp of Maharana Ummed Singh, princess Nishigandha emerged from her chamber, clad in white, like a widow. She had a proud look in her eyes as she set off towards Devigarh - to collect the head of her dead husband - late Kunwar Mangalsingh - Maharana of Devigarh.
This is my adaptation of a real incident somewhere in Rajasthan, that I heard as a child. However, the names, places and characters have no factual or historical accuracy. Any resemblance is purely conincidental.

A Strange Kiss

The night rolled away powered by our flights of fancy. We were outside the city on a small hill. The Zinian’s alu-boats could be seen far above us ferrying important members of their entourage for a night out in the glittering city that glowed behind our backs. I looked at her sitting by my side lost in contemplation of the crystal sand at her feet. I brushed away the dark hair falling into her eyes. She did not turn. I don’t think she even felt my fingers.

We had to come to a decision soon. For the thing between us would not be a secret for long. Most importantly, our actions would have grave repercussions that could and would concern a hundred planets in the multi-verse. It was not just about simple and pure love. It was also about big words like inter-life relations, space culture dynamics and other arcane jargon.

She was still an enigma to me. From the time my eyes fell on her in Tulot’s hybrid party I’ve been fascinated by her inscrutable looks. She had the looks of a goddess but the face of a diplomat. We got talking soon. I did not find out her true nature until much later. But how does that matter? For the first time I found someone with whom I could discuss my inner dreams without that person secretly laughing at my naïve notions. Three thousand years of human development and still we hunger for the old basics; love, companionship and emotional bonding. She had a resolve and intelligence within her that could have propelled her to great fame in the known inti-verse. Strangely, she was not in the least bit interested in that. She was the exact opposite of me in that respect. As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to be famous. I’ve always desired for people to talk about me, to recognize me from a distance as I walked down the virtual boulevards of Semperi City, or when I took a weekend break in the brilliant blue waters of Hintenia’s famous never-ending oceans. It was a hunger that had been driving me mad with frustration. But being with her soothed the raging fires of my twisted ambition. I had never felt more at peace with myself.

“Do you want to talk about it?”, I asked her. She shook her head gently. I sighed silently. She had been difficult that way, refusing to discuss our situation, even though more than me she knew how difficult it would be for us once everything came out into the open. I let her drift back to wherever she had been mentally. I suddenly started. Perhaps she was consulting the RCI. She trusted that…that thing too much in spite of knowing that I did not like it. What would the RCI say? Would it agree to mediate on our behalf in front of the Global Bureau? I snorted at that. The RCI was notorious for its cunning, almost like a bio-human many said.

She got up suddenly and nodded at me. It was time to go back. I got up and brushed the sand off my clothes and looked at her. We stared at each other trying to divine our respective thoughts. Her eyes were wet with some deep emotion. Was I right? What had that hulking monster advised her? All of a sudden she pulled me to her and kissed me full on my mouth. A deep, deep metallic kiss. I could taste her cold tears in my mouth. Her lips melting and her tongue searching for mine with some desperation. Her hands gripping my head with a fierce determination. I had never been kissed like that before. She let me go as suddenly as she had pulled me. She turned towards the city and started walking without a backward glance. Confusion was stalking my thoughts and nothing seemed to make sense. Perhaps there would be time for words later. I shrugged and set off after her.

Tell me can a man ever fall so utterly and madly in love with a robot?

22 July, 2005

Your Poem. . .

Mystic shades
Of green and blue
Interspersed with vermilion,
Laced with brocade
As if murals
In ancient Babylon
Is how I see
Your gilded words
Stretched taut
On the strings
Of your ephemeral thoughts;
At once arresting, piercing
A stake through my heart.

© Dan Husain


21 July, 2005



Chocolate flavoured tears
Of the mute women of Da'four
Taste forever bitter


I dream of large canvases with
warm chocolate coloured women
draped defiantly in bright
flowing fabric - purple, pink, orange -
arranged against a stark golden desert.
Alert, unbending bodies
with mute closed mouths
and dry - bright - white eyes
that say nothing
of burning children
and headless husbands,
of marauding horsemen
and violent rapes,
of unlivable lives
and undying deaths.
I stare transfixed till
the colour spills on the floor
and I must rush
to gather it in my palms
before it smears the earth;
but I wake too late in a silent sweat,
day after day, screaming soundlessly
while the world sings a song, on a large stage,
about the visions of Da'four.

(c) Anita V. July 2005


20 July, 2005


Like a thin trickle of water gently trembling onto a dark green lotus leaf
Your smile settles into my eyes
I stretch out my open palms pressed together in earnest
To hold its fall if it slips and drops


monsoon haiku

Forkfuls of the sticky day
Slither off my plate
As evening spoons up the cool


Music rediscovered

Music rediscovered
© Raamesh Gowri Raghavan
Pune, 19 July, 2005

I can hear the owls again.
Can you hear their soft tu-whoo,
The courser’s sharp kwik-kwoo,
The call of the sole moorhen?
The night is quiet again,
So the nightjar can sing too.
And a sporadic moo,
I can hear it now and then!

The little crickets court;
With love-ballads seldom heard,
Their talents do employ,
What is it that they purport?
Its music rediscovered,
Now the darkness rings with joy!


19 July, 2005

En Route - Ams-Rott

Chuck the snow, chuck the clouds,
chucks the cows and the stallions.
Empty all poetic baggage.
The rhythms of the train, graffiti on the walls,
ducks bobbing, birds in pattern,
families with flowers on the Sabbath.
Gothic towers, couples on bicycles, couples canoodling,
deciduous trees, flowers, grass (not pot), (but that too).
How deep must I dig into my pockets to
turn them inside-out? Lakes, rivers, oceans,
sun-rises-sets, women, queues,
family, kevin, keegan. When will the magician learn,
now is not the time for tricks? Don't grab
the rabbit by the ears – castrate it, so it will never return.
Let go the birds and the balloons... The magician’s wife
waits. Who will she see tonight? The trickster or her true
love. The magicians' cape and hat have to be auctioned.
There will be many buyers, but none who want to dedicate
a lifetime to these accessories. They are collectors - of collectibles
and cupboards - where the dried bones of the magician
are on display. Dogs won't buy them out of fear
of licking a pussy. Even skeletons have pockets
full of football fields, last minute goals and untouched
houses; chimneys (full) of soot, kitchens filled with perishable
items. Bones cannot be pickled, they are ground and served
as ayurveda. God forbid, someone was prescribed magician-
dust and they took home the medicine. Perhaps
they have lovers, wives or mothers who will ask them
to empty their pockets.



Pissimism is me
at a hill station
running into the -

metabolism on speed
like a cuckoo's orgasmic
cooo coooo cooooo cooooo
splashing against the wall

© theabbot 2005


18 July, 2005


i got a label:
on my shoes, sweat pants, tee and the headband
colour cordinated
thirty minutes a day
on a walking machine
that measures
and monitors
my breath, my pace, my heartbeat, my love-life;
walking brisk
watching tv
discussing stocks
and the latest episode
of some woman's mother-in-law
breathing climate control
behind sheets of glass
that keep the biosphere out,
then i move
towards shiny metal
torture machines
i twist, i turn, i flex, i fume;
i nod a hi
to the sixteen year old
ms.perfect designer body
she chitchats about
her botox, her tummy tuck, her enhancements, her parents' divorce;
larger than life
from behind her
arnold the groper
smiles back
a two dimensional pose;
a sweaty drop
teases my forehead
i pause, i think
does this exercise
pump up my heart?


it has to.
i did pay
for it.


14 July, 2005


I have been writing in Bengali and Hindi for some time now and I know this is not the place to share it. Since I am really bad at translating my stuff I thought why not share the blogs for those writing and see if it's worth anything. There are so many talented people here. I just may get some comments to improve my stuff. So here it is, my bengali stuff is on and my hindi stuff is on

Thank you so much.

13 July, 2005


Mother, for I wanted to be your dream
For I wanted to rhyme every word you never uttered
For I wanted to scream in your silent voice
Mother, for I could not.

For all my dreams I dreamt on my own of which you were not a part
For all those bruises of battles I lost inspite of you
For every land of tears I discovered without you
Mother, I author for you.



You would anticipate peace
But then, what happens?
Silent screams of the dawn,
Then low morning moans
That rise to wails of torment
As the nightmare deepens
And merges with the darkness.

Then you decide
To silence demented demons
With a chorus of your cries;
A howling, from which you
Would never wake.
And though the sun
Stalks you like a raving psychotic
You only see
Shadows chasing you.

Through all this you try
To pick the shards of your sanity
Searching for the memory
Of your completeness in mirrors,
Always praying they don’t disappear,
Or you don’t break them.

When dreams go gray,
Doors remain locked, and drums pound
In your head,
You pace up and down
Like a caged animal,
Trying desperately hard to forget
A time when you thought
That drum beats were music
And you once held the keys to all doors
That open into a blue sky.


12 July, 2005


No purpose, those tears locked within
smile, for that dark cloud needs silver
patter of rain on your roof, tingles;
as you inhale freshness.

Your tongue salivates, to wafting aroma
from your mothers’ kitchen,
golden honey, red pepper, green veggies,
just as flowers splash colour.

Shiver, on a cold morning,
as warmth creeps, from a cuppa,
misty breath, rested limbs
stretch in anticipation of a day glorious.

Chirps, squeaks, shrill laughter,
echo sentiments of vivid life
as artists with rainbow’d canvases,
struggle happily to see in God’s eye.

Warm sunlight plays peeping tom,
across hills and trees in soft clouds
as it travels across the day’s sky,
blossoming life in each new day.

As twilight draws a veil,
shadows crawl in with a starry roof,
black as a raven, with silvery drops
the night brings dreamy sleep

A fiery glow, with crackling wood,
charm moths, into its sacrificial altar,
as we draw into our senses,
metaphorically fueling our soul.


11 July, 2005

Farewell, Lapwing

On the lawn stands a lapwing,
In the sweet light of the moon.
I saw it in the morning,
It was still there at noon.
The rain has shed his blessing
In the happy time of June.
Silent stands the lapwing,
While a thousand crickets croon.

When winter was freezing
The bird was still around
Now the rain is pouring
Yet on his lawn he is found.
Bright may flash the lightning,
Fearful the thunder sound,
Stubborn is the lapwing;
He won’t give up his ground.

When the sun was scorching
In the summer month of May,
Unfazed stood the lapwing;
The bird was there to stay.
I have learnt this one thing
Come twilight dark or day:
To emulate the lapwing,
And persist in my way.

(This is my farewell to NCL, whose mascot is the lapwing)


07 July, 2005

The Trivia of A Brooding Mind - The Complete Series

The Trivia…

Perched on a mountain top
With icy winds
Against brazen cheeks
And a writhing river
Amidst mottled green
Life perhaps is a spectacle
And a handful of perspectives
That we bequeath
Our hearts’ each twist.

The Brooding…

In the middle of
A dreary afternoon
I woke with a start.
My throat dry
Bruised with a thousand sighs
With voices within
Like a million cries –
Enough! I plug my ears
I wish to hear
Your euphonious voice
Before I slide into sleep again.

Falling Apart…

Lost somewhere
In our efforts
To carve
Our separate worlds
Is perhaps
That nascent feeling
We lovingly nurtured
To drape
Our days with.

A Spanner in The Works…

It was just a face
No more than a pattern
An entity in space
Of many seen in a tavern
That waits its end
At the corner of a shabby street -
Morose, moribund -
Epitomizing mediocrity's defeat.
And though it reflected much,
It said nothing.
An average man's fate is such;
It's sealed before the morn begins.

A Scene at A Café…

I place my hands on yours.
You quietly withdraw: unsure.
Our silence engulfs
A million wishes unsaid.
I wish to say
But you place your fingers
On my pouting lips –
“Don’t ask!
I have no answers.”
But when did I seek an answer,
I only pose the question –

What is life
If not
A glimmer of love
In your gaping eyes?

© Dan Husain
April 22, 2005


06 July, 2005

Les Morts

They came in their machines and ate us. They fed on our brains, inserting their squeaky clean protrusions at the base of the head and sucking out the grey matter. They left the white matter alone for some reason. No, no they only wanted the stuff that drove us, made us think, made us love, made us hate, the stuff which made us humans. We called them ‘les morts’, the dead ones.

I think I’m the last one left. I haven’t met anyone else in years. I’ve hidden out for long in the forgotten corners, living on scraps and wild roots. But I knew it was a futile struggle from the start. How can one man stand up against their inhuman single-mindedness? This is the job I had set myself to do. To record the passing of our species. Something that kept me alive until now, running and hiding, running and hiding from their horrible sounds.

Yes, yes that is something that drives me mad. That utter, utter horror of a sound they make. It makes me lose grip over reality. It is a like worm digging into your brain, inch by inch, slowly but steadily. Oh…the sheer mental torture of it. I cannot stand it anymore. I cannot run anymore. There is nowhere to run to. Everything is empty. This whole planet is one vast graveyard of the brain-dead. Not a thing moves except for them. Not a sound anywhere except for their wordless whispers.

I don’t know if anyone will ever read this. The last testament of mankind. A message in a bottle for a whole species. But I wanted to do this. To leave a record of our passing. We were good weren’t we, in spite of all the havoc we wreaked? We were after all human, not like them, not like them. We at least had a conscience.

There they come. I can hear that sound again. It is like a heartbeat speeded up mechanically and played back in reverse in high pitch. Words cannot describe what that sound can do to a mind. I wanted this to be a comprehensive record of our existence and all I could come up with is this disconnected rambling of a mind on the edge. I failed. We failed. They have won. Game over.

Two cities


Eyes reduced to slits;
a storm hovers.
On a sentinel tower, I stand
Fingers spread into the wind,
electric sparks fly off their tips.
Rain approaches Jaipur.



carved furniture
sand in crevices
open a door to heat



04 July, 2005

Taken at the Flood

Vishal Patel is young, enthusiastic, committed to delivering what he promises and engaged to be married on July 12 to his childhoood sweetheart, Shilpa. Vishal works as a delivery boy for a small courier company at Baroda. In his spare time, Vishal is a physical fitness instructor at a local gym and also fills in when he can for Kunal, a friend who runs a small mobile phone services shop.

A week ago, to celebrate his engagement, Kunal threw a bachelor party for Vishal. Vishal drinks rarely, but all the boys were in a rare mood since he was the first 'bakra' to the altar. The revelry went on until late in the night. Piss--drunk and happy as hippies on a holiday, Kunal and another friend mooted the idea of a dare to dig up soil and make a pit beaneath a nearby railway line. The gang of eight went about this task with enthusiasm within a few metres of a level crossing until the cabin attendant spotted them and they fled the scene.

The next day, Thursday the 30th of June, Vishal had to deliver a packet in one of the industrial estates just beyond Baroda. It was raining heavily but he was undeterred as per his personal motto that he never slips on the job; finding his motorcycle unable to negotiate a heavily flooded stretch, he dismounted with his packet and elected to walk the last few hundred metres to his destination.

Ahead of him, several vehicles were stuck in a jam caused by a stalled Maruti 800 right on the train tracks. Vishal skirted around the jam and eyewitnesses aver that he sank without warning. His body could be fished out only yesterday when the waters receded; his identity was established from the ownership records of the bike.

Kunal has left home abruptly and cannot be traced. Shilpa is in a state of shock. Vishal Patel was young, enthusiastic and is now very dead.

Don't call you back

Your thoughts gnawing inside my head the entire day
Like wiggling worms nibbling away at images
Leaving a trail of half chewed brain cells
You stay, slowly dieing on every bite

And I don’t call you back

For the sound of you will call my demons back
Gnashing their teeth and growling their might
Over whatever I have scraped together as mine
Whatever I will not let you drown
Whatever you cannot merge in you
Or your thoughts

And I don’t call you back


01 July, 2005


Scratched beyond recognition
At the margin of today's paper
That lies soulless
On your coffee table -
As we talk unsure, hushed
Our voices sliding into pauses abrupt -
Is perhaps my face
That you so fondly drew
Knowing it's me on the phone for you.

© Dan Husain
April 13, 2005