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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

31 January, 2006


(in rictameter with symmetric rhyming)


Was what I craved
So I piled up some stones
And built towers taller than dreams
Then barred their windows with my weathered bones
Leaving no escape for my screams
And here I sit alone
In this depraved

(c) Rajendra Pradhan


28 January, 2006

A Dog & Its Tail

A dog
that chases
its own tail
is bound to
mostly, fail

But the one
that succeeds
will live to tell
How his own
arse does smell

(c) Rajendra


Republic Day in Rictameter

wait for picture

had many names
and no face, just wrinkles
For her, nothing. But some twinkles,
she had asked for her starry-eyed children
So she got a constitution
and two more names
None sweeter than

(c) Rajendra Pradhan


26 January, 2006

William Wordsworth's Legacy

I have reworked the short story "William Wordsworth's Legacy" that I posted here some time back.



“Wordsworth-saab, want some fresh bananas?”

I am sitting on the steps of the Jehangir Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda, Bombay, opposite Elphinstone College. It's a hot and dusty day. It is 3 p.m. Sunlight arcs across the architectural details of this antiquated art district of Bombay. I am a bit exhausted and irritated when the man in an unwashed loincloth approaches me.

His eyes have that curious look of having seen it all, as if he can divine my thoughts. “Don’t disturb me, please,” I think. The idea was to shoo him away.

I am making background notes on yellow stick it notes and pasting them in a notebook for the novel I am planning to write about India, the country where my grandfather, Papa Wordsworth used to live and work. For clarity’s sake, I will call him Papa Wordsworth here. Yes, the same William Wordsworth, the grandson of the romantic poet William Wordsworth, my great, great grandfather, whom I will call Grandpa Wordsworth. Let me explain: Grandpa William Wordsworth had a grandson named Papa William Wordsworth – who was principal of Elphinstone College – whose grandson I am, William Bennett Wordsworth.

Elphinstone College also houses Bombay’s archives. I have been doing research there for, may be, two weeks. In these two weeks I progressed from reasonably well off to quite broke. It doesn’t matter, at least, to me. I am following my instinct. A story is what I want.

According to my research, grandfather was designated as an observer when the Indian National Congress, the party, was born. This is a pleasant revelation. I am an Indophile like him. I have loved India since the days I read about it in my grandfather’s yellowed volumes in his book-lined study. I loved his teak-wood-shelved study and the smell of old books. The musty smell still lingers in my mind as I sit here and look at a part of Papa Wordsworth’s life. To think that he walked these streets, that his shadow fell on these stones. Good Lord!

“Wordsworth-saab, please, buy some, they are fresh from the gardens,” the pleas are getting insistent, a tendency I notice in this great country. A “no” is probably a “yes.”

Again? But wait a minute, how does this old man know my name?

Papa Wordsworth was the principal of Elphinstone College somewhere around the turn of the nineteenth century, the eighteen-eighties, to be precise. Between Jehangir Art Gallery and Elphinstone College is MG Road on which the traffic is pretty raucous, horns blaring all the time. I have overspent, and my budget is all but depleted. I am ruined unless my literary agent, one David Darwin, could win me a million pound advance that he said the Wordsworth name could fetch. I never knew there is so much money in writing. But where is the story in this humming, screeching, hollering metropolis, where the crowds are as the ones in a fair in Hyde Park. It’s so hot, something I hadn’t bargained for, and dusty. Dust swirls into my eyes.

“Nature’s best fruit, Wordsworth-saab,” he is getting desperate, I can see from his sightless, cloudy eyes. I guess nobody has bought from this man since morning, as he sits beside the road looking earnestly at me.

I wave him away, show my displeasure. Go away, old chappie. I am hot and bothered and don’t like his importuning.

I see that roads in India are so noisy, unlike in England. First of all, the automobiles make a lot of noise. They seem to be working on some outdated internal combustion engines here. I am sure things haven’t changed much since my grandfather went back to England. I like the quaintness of these antiquated automobiles. It’s almost as if I am living in another century.

I see several antique Morris Oxford cars on the street. They are as round as toads. They call them ambassadors here. And there are many Italian Fiat models, which would have adorned automobile museums in my country. They make a big racket. To add to that, Indian drivers are horn-happy. Don’t mistake this, no reflection of racial bias, but they really like to create a ruckus. I ask Akhil why Indians talk so loudly, and he says, may be, it’s in their blood. Akhil is showing me around, he knows Bombay and says he writes. He is supposed to get me the big story idea. But I don’t see anything inspiring about his leads.

How does this wrinkled old man know I am a Wordsworth, the progeny of the grand literary tradition I am trying to propagate, alas, without success? I knew I would find my story in Bombay; discover something that I can expand into a novel. But, this heat and noise is killing me. My job as a journalist came to an abrupt end when The New English Sun sacked me for writing an article detailing the sexual preference of the English football team. Imagine. Most of those jocks there are homosexuals! I know these things. That revelation “wasn’t done” said my editor and he sacked me, the progeny of the Wordsworth tradition, I, William Bennett Wordsworth. Thereafter, I started writing short stories for literary journals and dabbling in collecting rare books, rare first editions of famous authors.

“Wordsworth-saab, want some fresh bananas, from the plains of Marathawada?”

His sightless eyes are rheumy behind his broken glasses; his skin is folded in a million small wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. His clothes haven’t seen water for, may be, years. His hands and legs are so thin they look as brittle sticks peeping out of his kurta and dhoti. He has a bamboo basket full of bananas before him and he is squatting on the corner of the stairs that lead to the art gallery.

“Are you speaking to me?” I ask the man in Hindustani. I know the language.

He nods.

“How do you know my name?” I ask.

He pauses. He takes a long time doing that. As if years, no, no, decades pass before his unseeing eyes.

“Wordsworth- saab, the same eyes, the cleft chin, the dimples around the eyes. How can I mistake that?”

I try to control the surprise from registering on my face.

“You mean you knew my grandfather, William Wordsworth, the principal of Elphinstone College?” I ask pointing to the college around which young students were disporting playfully.

“Yes, the grandson of the big English kavi samrat, emperor of poets, William Wordsworth,” he wheezes.

So he knows about Papa Wordsworth and his grandfather, my great, great grandfather. How does he know?

I am interested. I call Akhil. “Akhil come here, I told you I am discovering old roots. Here, it is. This man knows about Papa Wordsworth.”

Akhil and I squat in front of the old man.

“How do you know my grandfather?”

“When you have seen empires fall before your eyes, a people gain freedom, how difficult is remembering a face? Eh?”

His eyes are defiant, glowing with some vague pride of his people, the great Mahrattas. They ruled India once.

“Even then, I suppose, I could be someone else, an imposter,” I say.

“No. I am sure. You have his eyes, his cleft chin, and his cheekbones. How can I mistake? I was his chokra-boy. I used to work in Elphinstone College then.”

“What’s your name, baba?” Akhil asks him.

“Babubhai Kothare, from district Gandhidham, Gujarat.” His voice is broken from memories churning inside his mind. Like every Indian from rural India he mentions his village’s name after his own.

My grandfather lived in the eighteen-eighties. Therefore this man must be more than a hundred years old, this Babubhai. At least a hundred and twenty years. Yes, he looks that old. Look at his bone structure. Lord, he looks as if he could go on living for another fifty years.

“How old are you, Babubhai?”

He tries to remember. Then he gives up.

“I don’t remember. Who will remember? Do you want some fresh bananas Wordsworth-saab? I must sell this whole bunch today. Or...” his feeble voice trails off.

“Babubhai, tell me your story. I will buy the whole bunch of bananas from you. How much is it anyway?”

“Let me see, there are five dozens here. So, sixty bananas. At fifteen rupees a dozen, seventy-five rupees.”

I give him a hundred rupees, “You can keep the change.”

His eyes light up, he is overjoyed. His whole face crumples into a thousand crinkling laugh lines, a dry laugh, or, was it a cough, escapes his throat.

“I will tell you all about it, Wordsworth-saab. I will tell all about your grandfather. Just a minute, where should I deliver all these bananas? Do you have a bag?”

I don’t have a bag, “You keep all of it. Here I will have one, Akhil you have one too.”

Akhil says, “Thanks, Bennett, I am hungry. I think I will have two, Babubhai.”

We eat bananas squatting before Babubhai, the traffic around us zoom. People walk past to their destinations near and far. I want to hear Babubhai’s story and, may be, just may be, a story, a novel, will take shape.

“Come with me,” Babubhai eventually says after stuffing the money into a cloth purse and putting it inside his kurta.

“Where?” Akhil asks.

“To my house, my home.”

We cross MG Road in a sort of convoy. Babubhai ahead of us, and Akhil and me tagging behind him. The vehicles are noisy and blare their horns. Guess they have some maniacal need to be noticed.

Blimey! I am nearly run over by a taxi that screeches to a halt inches away from me.

Babubhai walks to the far end of the Elphinstone College gate where it intersects with the City Civil Courts. There is a cot made of strung rope leaning against the iron railing. Beside it are several bags, and a tin trunk.

He straightens the cot on the road and sits on the David Sassoon Library Road. Opposite us is the green garden of David Sassoon Library where people sit around and chat lazily. It seems so peaceful here.

“Sit, this here is my home,” Babubhai motions to the cot, and shouts, “Chotu bring tea for my guests. They are big people from foreign country, England, I used to tell you stories about that great country, didn’t I? Wordsworth-saab’s grandson himself.”

I wonder how a man can live on the street and call his cot his home. There are many like him. What would he do when it rains? I want to do something for him.

Chotu brings tea and squats on the road in front of us.

Then Babubhai tells me his story. Well, that is another story, which I intend to shape into a novel, but in short, the gist follows.

He was a chokra-boy who ran errands for my grandfather William Wordsworth, principal of Elphinstone College, grandson of poet William Wordsworth.

“And Wordsworth-saab, he used to be so kind, so humble in spite of his white skin, and so kind. He played a big role in our freedom movement.” Babubhai said looking intently at me.

So, he knew about my grandfather’s role, though meager, in the formation of the Indian National Congress. I felt my chest expanding with pride.

The Indians as well as the British treated him, meaning Papa Wordsworth, with great respect, as he was the grandson of a great poet and bore his eponymous name. Papa Wordsworth sympathized with the aspirations of the Indian people. That’s why when Allen Octavio Hume first established the Indian National Congress; he invited grandfather to be an observer.

Then came the Independence movement and Babubhai had seen all the movements and processions pass down MG Road before his own eyes. Grandfather returned to England and died when I was around twelve. Then Babubhai retired and the college authorities allowed him to live in the college premises. Then he started selling bananas squatting on the pavement, to earn enough to get by.

“Now I will show you something,” he opens a tin trunk, kept beneath the cot. First he extracts a plastic bag and then produces an old and yellowed book handsomely bound in leather.

“Here, take a look,” Babubhai’s trembling hands extend the book, his voice breaking in reverence.

“The Collected Works of William Wordsworth,” I read and exclaim, “Grandpa Wordsworth’s poems!” Then I look at the imprint, “A first edition, too.”

“There’s more,” Babubhai wheezes as he opens the cover.

I hold the book reverently. Inside it is written, “To my grandson, William Wordsworth, who, I hope, will inherit my poetic legacy.” The handwriting has broad cursive strokes, the way English actually should be written.

My great, great grandfather Grandpa Wordsworth’s own writing. My grandfather, Papa Wordsworth, didn’t do much writing, but he did carry on the legacy, I admit. Nevertheless, this work must be worth millions in the international rare books market. I know I am a collector.

I browse through the book. It is full of annotations by my Papa Wordsworth in his own hand.

“Priceless, the book is priceless,” I whisper to Akhil.

“I want you to have it,” Babubhai tells me.

“But Babubhai this book is worth a million, in fact, several millions pounds. I can’t keep it.”

He smiles a wry smile, “Then you can come and buy some more bananas from Babubhai, I will be right there,” he said pointing to Jehangir Art Gallery.

Then I make a quick decision. I know that if such a precious volume were left on the roads of Bombay, it would be lost forever. As it is, it would be of no use to Babubhai. I had to sell it and do something for Babubhai. But what?

“Here take this money for this book,” I give Babubhai all the money I had with me, around five thousand rupees. That would last him till I found a buyer for the book.

“You don’t have to sell bananas anymore.”

“Really?” His eyes are incredulous. I know he can’t take all this excitement on an Englishman’s face, what with the stiff-upper-lip types he was associated with.

“Yes, I will find a buyer for this book. And then I will come back and do something for you,” I knew he couldn’t understand what I meant and as to how a tattered old book could fetch a lot of money, even five thousand rupees.

Yes, I intend to sell the book. The commission will go to fund the novel I am about to write, temporarily titled, “William Wordsworth’s Legacy.” My agent David Darwin would be a very happy man.

Meanwhile, I have started planning for the William Wordsworth-Babubhai Kothare Facility for the Homeless in Mumbai.


To read the original go here:


23 January, 2006

To an Online Friend

May be the whole thing was a dream,
Pinched myself awake this morn,
To check if you are there, virtually,
And felt your sudden absence online!

Be sure you will always exist,
In a special place in my heart,
Your smile in pixels is so sweet,
But, no, you are too good to be true!

Where are you? Do you exist?
Do you still inhabit Internet protocols?
And virtual chats and emoticons
That brought me immense joy?

Now that you are gone; are you
Among your charmed admirers?
I wish you well, I will miss you,
May you be ever happy and smiling!

Distances and togetherness,
Opposites, can’t networks cross,
I could never bridge the distances
Of your sweet kindness.

Someday, if you feel betrayed,
And so lonely that you could die,
Remember this friend who still cares,
And felt fulfilled by your brief warmth.



22 January, 2006


Silence descends like a curtain,
shrouding the land, inert in heat
and history. This is locust country,
no matter borne on wings or feet.
The river minds its inventory
of fable, back into the far uncertain.

Silence descends, its shadow swallowing
the skits and masques of earlier farce,
stage cleared of all but the man:
only the desert shifts in this sparse
theatre, wayward wind against sand.
The calm will herald the blowing.

Soon the horizon darkens, and a hum
or murmur gives life to cloud, dust
spangled with glints of steel, clock
racing with hooves: till a spear’s thrust
makes mud of human rock.
And silence closes, till the armies come.



15 January, 2006


‘Want to go up to the terrace while the order gets ready?’
‘Yes.’ As simple as that. No games.
Her eyes glistened in the moonlight.
My cheek stung. ‘That was for presuming I’d say “Yes.”’
The other cheek. Christ. She’s ambidextrous. ‘And that was for being right.’
And then she kissed me.

9th January 2006. 55 words.

14 January, 2006

Of Words, Of Writing

I want to write. I want to write until the stars stop exhaling light. I want to write so as to embrace myself with the cuddly comfort of words well formed. I want to write like a Homer or a Valmiki, a vessel for words flowing in from my deepest wellsprings. I want to write until dust begins to settle on the tips of my toes. I want to write until the emotion wringing my heart is sated and put to sleep. I want to write till the tears behind my eyes translate into beautiful words. I want to write till I can feel no more. I want to write until all that is there ceases to exist and all that is to come is taking birth between my words. I want to write like God breathing life into mud and fire.

I want to write about languorous love, about lingering dew, about an orange dawn and a melancholic dusk, about wise whispers of the old, about sweet nothings of new lovers, about wintry mornings and rainy afternoons, about fresh air flowing through my lungs, about glorious feelings and wistful youth, about adolescent heartbreaks and everlasting love. I want to write about all the feelings that travel, tremble and tumble inside and around us.

I want to write about the many loves I found, about the sadness I learnt, about the warmth I gained and the memories I cherish. I want to write about you, me and everyone. I want to write about a bright tomorrow, a rosy yesterday and an unnoticed today. I want to write about moments we do not remember, like flowers smiling outside the window, like sunshine warming our hardened skin, like words we hear but do not listen to.

Oh, I want to write until I’m drowning in the thousand different voices of my words. I want to write until my fingers ache with a sweet pain. I want to write until the song in my heart fades into a distant echo.

I want to write until verbs weep, adjectives inspire and nouns conspire with the help of mischievous adverbs. I want to soar on the wings of ecstatic adjectives, joyous verbs keeping me company while I taste the lilting sound of nouns rolling around my smiling mouth. Words, words, words, I want to swim in their glittering midst, forgetting the mundane life outside their limpid depths.

I want to learn with my words, as they arrange themselves in perfect order, conjuring meaning out of chaos. I want to grow old in their nostalgic company, leaning on them for support in a lonely and loveless life. I want to be laid to rest with a wreath made of my words and a couplet carved in stone as my headrest. And if there is an afterlife or a heaven, I wish I’ll still have my words to sing me eternal songs of all that is wise and wonderful, of all that is a pure and divine joy.

13 January, 2006


Opened my eyes, one at a time, and peeked out at a world. Funny world it is, na? Blue checked curtains and songs of Don Williams singing Fever. So I smile, and tend to think that all of it looks deliciously nutty. So I think of that savage little creature I wished happy birthday last night, and I tend to wish her again.

Yawned and ambled over to the washbasin. The radio has moved onto another number now, which isn't half-bad, really. Cock a snook at my reflection in the mirror, and remember the fun dancing last night with the little savage. Wild one. Not the savage: me, me, all me.

Brushed teeth with zeal. Funny world, this. Funny teeth, though perfect white and rounded. Cliched little pearls I have. Cliched and egoistic like hell. Like you. Like you telling me how you want to pinch my nose.

Stopped brushing and stared at mirror. Mirror edged with blue plastic. Needs to be cleaned really, but who gives a damn. Damn. Did we talk last night? But we couldn't. I was dancing with the savage. Wild one. Me, not her. Seems all deliciously hazy. Mexican shots, politely called teqilas, and brown little shooters, ecstatically called after-eights. And your voice whispering in my ear about tall towers and fancy flowers and lovely lies and terrible truths. I love you, you said. And I snorted.

Not very romantic, of course. But I snort. Possible?

Of course not. I danced last night. With the savage. Wild one. Not her: me.

So I brushed again. Gargled. Rinsed. Hollered to flatmate to get her ass up. Work, work, work. Both of us are lazy bums. We hate going to work. I think we hate working. Summer flies and no ants at all, in us. Lazy flowers and blue checked curtains and Don Williams singing a racy song in a country voice. Perfect day to hop onto the balustrade and get the washed clothes down. The iron-lady will come soon and take them away. She'll listen to Williams croon too.

Now Williams is gone, and it's a Rhinestone Cowboy.

But did you call?


So, I throw away the clothes on the floor (the maid will whine when she finds out I did that, but who gives a damn, really) and pick up the phone.

Punched through to Call History on the cell phone. A familiar number. Smile. Laugh. It wasn't a dream after all. Hi love. Sleepy here. I love you. I miss you. Snort. Snort.

And the world just got a bit sunnier. Must be the blue checked curtains.

12 January, 2006

The Seasons

The Seasons
sound their silent bells
before time

Cold rain
washing the dry
dust, off the reluctant trees

Wet dogs and dripping
cats huddle like
shipwrecked survivors
under lonely park benches

The sulking sun
suddenly steps out
to create
god’s seventh hope


Fresh snow
falling in wintry waves
covering everything
with a pregnant hush

Hollow footsteps
melting into strange shapes
reminding me of my thoughts
on a cold Sunday morning

Closed sounds, grey feelings
Winter rising


Brilliant sunshine
seeping through my cold skin
like my lover’s smile

A rush of warmth
as my bones bask
in the golden glow
of life awakening


07 January, 2006

To My Mother

You loved me
You hated me
You left me this day 0.05 hrs
Feeling empty.

As you lay helpless
Your heart beating, so slowly
I don't know
Where your spirit
So strong, so feminine
Has dissipated
Leaving this mask
Of death on your face.

I stare at you
As you lie dying
How can this corpse
Be my mother?
Mothers don't die
They create life from love
And keep nurturing the loveless.



For Sale

touch these bones.
see how hollow they are?
they have weathered
many a painful storm
perfect for your use, sir!

see the skin?
so easy to peel, see?
it’s made of desires, that’s all.
just leave this one need
to be of use to you.
what more can you ask, sir!

take away the eyes, ears
they have seen enough
heard enough from others.
for you, i trim them, no problem.
and no extra charge, sir!

use the mouth though,
it needs your life-giving breath
to make wonderful tunes.
if you happy then i happy, sir!

they said you were looking
for a single piece of bamboo
to make yourself
a new flute, o Blue Sir!


06 January, 2006

A Dialogue in Verse

A smasher, and no doubt. A tart’s skirts,
cleavage plunging souls to perdition,
and a swing to match, she was out to kill.
With a hussy’s nerve, she made a mission
of men, and dined off them at will.
Tell me: are all your kind squirts?

If she was all that you say she was,
why blame them? A tease wouldn’t amount
to much if there wasn’t blood and gore
to show for it, or bodies to count!
She’s the stuff of lay and lore,
my dear, and certainly not without cause!

I think you’re just as bad as all the rest.
You haven’t set eyes on her, nor are even
likely to, and here you are, plainly drooling
already! I’m not surprised though, given
what I know of men, with crotches ruling
brains. You’re all the same, all obsessed!

Hardly my dear! You can’t deny the power
of certain women. Take Helen of Troy,
for instance: a war and two splendid epics
guaranteed to make the life of every schoolboy
miserable – surely that’s some tricks?
Although I grant you that went sour…

Au contraire, she reinforces the validity
of my premise. It’s not so much her charms
as a fundamental error of judgment.
Marlowe got it wrong: Sparta took up arms
not on account of Helen’s enticement
but because of Paris’ own stupidity!