Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Upside Down

given a point of view and a viewer
who can say what is up and what down
in absolute terms
everything everywhere
everything but everything

is upside down

Monday, November 13, 2017


Without air conditioning; or, within.
the slowing down, stopping of the breeze
the growing silence within the heart
is the journey ahead
or has it ended

Saturday, November 11, 2017


of colours and aroma
to entice
to germinate
its natural
ignorant that these cycles
can be interrupted
for food
or fanciful

Friday, November 10, 2017


foot arm elbow 
dissected chewed 
opened for study repair
rbc wbc capillaries
muscles skin 
exposed to be covered
or consumed
no matter what
no question
no doubt
earth to earth

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


spilling out of the Petri dish
to evolve or be destroyed
before developing into...

Monday, November 06, 2017


rain, rain
I must be really parched
scorched and barren
even more than the earth

to welcome
your advent
heralded by proper ceremony
of dark, overbearing clouds
lightning and thunder-claps
or unannounced with temperamental outbursts

your cool spray on my temples
through the window
the sound of your caress
on the mildly protesting panes
and whispers
coaxing the leaves to submission
and the intoxicating aroma
of aroused passion rising from the earth
diffuse into my being
and stir to life my deadened hopes

in humility I feel wrapped
with visions of your power
infusing life or destroying it
as you reign unrelentingly
moodily bestowing your favours
tenderly in a compassionate shower here
or lashing in devastating fury there
germinating now or uprooting
impetuously, inexorably
in a stupendous act
of inclement copulation
urgent, hysterical
insatiate and overwhelming
demanding nothing less than total surrender

and even as you depart
leaving the earth
ravaged and ravished and fecund
in pain it pines and thirsts

as I do
as I lie on my bed by the window
crippled, wasted, discarded, empty

Saturday, November 04, 2017


Fighting nature's fury while being its martyrs; in calmer times, providing shelter and gentle breeze from sweltering heat.

Thursday, November 02, 2017


with our minds, hearts
and brains

on our present

and past

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Satellite Apartments

in space
for aliens
or humans

38,000 miles per hour

within earth's orbit
sunrise sunset
every hour


being thrown out
by internal controls
or external objects
or gravitational
or magnetic forces

other planets

galactic debris
or stars
or whatever

its longevity uncertain
as when terrestrial
so also orbitally

Sunday, October 29, 2017


The Colossus holds up the sky.
He can't remember for how long 
since he was torn away from a cliffside 
and tortured with chisels 
and propped up 
and consecrated 
and prayed to 
and frozen into place 
by expectations.

The sky looks angrier 
than his unmoving eyes have seen. 
It was a burden 
which his broad shoulders could support; 
now it threatens like an enemy. 
It couples with earth 
to rock him on his pedestal. 

He must uphold. 
He cannot bend. 
If he falls, ashes. 
We all fall down.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a play by Tennessee Williams adapted for film in 1958 and again in 1984, was one of the earliest cinematic productions of Williams' work. The 1958 film, directed by Richard Brooks, starred Paul Newman; Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat; and Burl Ives. It was nominated for six Oscars.

As much as the original play was recognised in the theatre, the film was a great entry into the popular imagination for Tennessee Williams. It was very polished, even though it was hard for people to appreciate Williams. He was always enigmatic, difficult to understand: almost, given the period of his creative years, bordering on mild to extreme perversion; or else misunderstood.

For more information and a plot summary, see Wikipedia.

The American Consulate in Chennai had a regular program on book discussion, where the learned heads of teaching institutions, and writers, were invited. It amused me that at the end of a discussion of Tennessee Williams' work which I headed, several of these gathered around me with curious questions: How did I know Tennessee Williams so well, when others hardly understood him? Had I met him personally? I replied that not only had I not met him but honestly, I had not even read the book, except for the text on the cover and a couple of random paragraphs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Furling and Unfurling

the sun
furling and unfurling

a new day
a new beginning
a new arrival
a new departure

the new 
as in old

Bhashwati wrote:

The words,

A new departure

the new
as in old

holds the key. 
The day furls even as it unfurls, the hours of light pass into the depths of darkness. The same familiar cycle forever and yet often the heart craves and the mind yearns for lasting light, for arrivals divorced from departure, for life free of death... as if such were even possible. 
But if conscious life must live, it can only do so by denying all consciousness of reality.

And the image brings to mind an old song by Jaan Nisar Akhtar, Javed Akhtar's father, : 

Katra katra pighalta raha aasmaan
Rooh ki waadiyon mein na jaaney kahaan
Ik nadi dil ruba geet gaati raahi

Sunday, October 22, 2017


either beginning or end
first stirring of life
or the last image
chanced upon by
aged unseeing eyes

an image
of dawn or dusk
of beginning or end
not seen but felt
before the last breath
from scattered pieces
of mind

last breath
in wondrous glow
of dawn or dusk

Friday, October 20, 2017

Memories Overlapping

memories overlapping
other memories
likewise overlapping others
until they diffuse
and fade away
into nothingness

Bhashwati wrote:

What an unbelievable composition with what a wide range of elements in the same frame.
Vaise i dont get it why people chase that elusive being called god when there is the miracle called light that one cannot admire and worship and appreciate enough.
And how you manage to play with it is no less miraculous.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Life, the Alluring Prison

My offering, with a thousand salutes, to all my fellow prisoners.

Ek haseen haseena zindagi
khamosh tammana
berahm aasmaan ke niche
bhitar baahar

A beauty, life beautiful
silent yearning
under the merciless sky
within without

Thursday, October 12, 2017


as in unaware
of good and bad
happiness or otherwise

wise beyond wisdom

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Small leaves
blown by a cold wind
scutter over stone.

Linen cool under my hand,
and the door ajar
to ease his passing.

This is his new address,
where forever
he will be unreachable.

Traveller, if you pass this place,
be gentle,
he is resting here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Conversation 2: Past Present

Bhashwati wrote:

Actually not one but several conversations are happening here.

The diminutive adult who may have been a helper or attendant at an earlier point and could be conversing with his memories of those "better" days which actually may have been hard days of toil for him but considering the ravages of time on the building and his own life, the present must seem far more unbearable.

And then theres the gnarled knotted tree bent but not broken and still visited by spring. conversing with itself and with the walls that will never be revisited by old glory.

And the doors windows pillars passages conversing together in a perennial assembly of mourning.

And the light outside and the dark shadows within, they may be conversing too.

To say nothing of the embedded traces of lives that have lived loved lost within these premises. 
Would they not be conversing with each other too?

Bahut khoob hai.

i wonder where it was hidden all these years.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Up the Downstairs

when I went up and down the stairs
I stopped midway
and looked into the letterbox
where I found only cobwebs

and I wondered why
my heart always sank

and then I thought that somewhere
there was another letterbox
with someone looking into it
and not finding my letter
and feeling as disappointed
as I did
and saddened
as I was


As I grew up 
I learned to give 
before I took 
except unhappiness 
which were mine 
and mine alone 
not to be shared

but that could not be
cannot be

(written in 1956)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Conversation: Future Past

between the eroded wisdom of the past
and an uncertain future

Bhashwati wrote:

This time round what has struck me most is the texture, actually the many textures that are part of the image. The grainy, the lined, the soft, the hard, the solid and the shadowy.
It caught me by surprise because i have always only noticed the boy and his communion with the stony wall. There is so much more that is kneaded into the composition.

Friday, September 15, 2017


A baby, fallen from the nest, frightened of everything; even gentle, fond protection, trembling so much that friendly caring became cruel. Our efforts to feed nuts, and anything other than that, all were suspect. Touching it, not touching it, all failed to reassure it that we wanted to be friendly and play with it. Nothing worked until we let it escape, even as we feared that it would become instant prey.

Bhashwati wrote:

How scared it looks of the unfamiliar protection that is being proffered.

Instantly brings to my terribly troubled mind's eye the millions of refugee infants and children who find themselves at the receiving end of conflicts they have no conception or comprehension of and ejected and evicted from the familiar environs of their short life they have only fear and mistrust of the entire human world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kashmir on Fire

In Man's history of war, peace, greed and lust for territory and whatever goes with it, a time always comes when the cause and reasoning are not only challenged, but all factual veracity is wiped out. Human tragedy in political and other arenas that he both suffers and inflicts, ceases to be within reach of comprehension, and, irony of ironies, if solutions are reached, their being right or wrong is not only ignored, but becomes meaningless.

What then, one can pertinently ask, Is History? A bunch of variable lies.

Photo-collage by me, using broken glass image by Amarjeet Singh Nagi for India Today.

Monday, September 11, 2017


the door is open

just behind the white light
you will find fulfillment

hurry! or darkness
will quickly swallow the light
leaving you groping
and lost forever

Saturday, September 09, 2017


soon to be mangled

who can
swim or fly
or writhe our way out
of what we have wrought

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Embers of Desire, Ashes

This haunting song (see the video and English translation below), with music by Khayyam and lyrics by Kaifi Azmi, is considered to be one of Mohammed Rafi's best. To recover from the melancholy of it takes longer than one usually expects. Rafi's selection of a high octave from the start, as opposed to starting at a lower pitch and gradually reaching a climax of hopelessness, was a novel experiment. It was close to Kaifi Azmi and Rafi's hearts.

jaane kyaa dhoondhti rahti hain ye aankhen mujhmein
raakh ke dher mein sholaa hai na chingaari hai
jaane kyaa dhoondhti rahti hain ye aankhen mujhmein
raakh ke dher mein sholaa hai na chingaari hai

ab na wo pyaar na us pyaar ki yaadein baaki
aag yoon dil mein lagi kuchh na rahaa kuchh na bachaa
jiski tasveer nigaahon mein liye baithi ho
main wo dildaar nahin uski hoon khaamosh chitaa
jaane kyaa dhoondhti rahti hain ye aankhen mujhmein
raakh ke dher mein sholaa hai na chingaari hai

zindagi hans ke guzarti to bahut achchhaa thaa
khair hans ke na sahi ro ke guzar jaayegi
raakh barbaad muhabbat ki bachaa rakhi hain
raakh barbaad muhabbat ki bachaa rakhi hain
baar-baar isko jo chhedaa to bikhar jaayegi
jaane kyaa dhoondhti rahti hain ye aankhen mujhmein
raakh ke dher mein sholaa hai na chingaari hai

aarzoo jurm wafaa jurm tamannaa hai gunaah
ye wo duniyaa hai jahaan pyaar nahin ho saktaa
kaise baazaar kaa dastoor tumhen samjhaaun
bik gayaa jo wo khareedaar nahin ho saktaa
bik gayaa jo wo khareedaar nahin ho saktaa
jaane kyaa dhoondhti rahti hain ye aankhen mujhmein
raakh ke dher mein sholaa hai na chingaari hai
jaane kyaa dhoondhti rahti hain ye aankhen mujhmein
raakh ke dher mein sholaa hai na chingaari hai

I do not know what your eyes keep seeking in me
In this pile of ash
There is no spark
There is no ember 

There is no love now
Nor memories of it
The fire that devastated my heart
Nothing of it was left
Nothing was saved
The image you have in your eyes
I am not that lover
But his quiet pyre

It would be good if this life passed joyfully
But that is not to be
It will pass in sorrow
I have saved the ashes of my devastated love
They will scatter away
If you nudge them again and again

Desire is a crime, Love is a crime
Yearning for love is a sin
In this world there can be no love

How should I explain the rules of the bazaar
One who has sold his soul
Cannot pretend to be the buyer

Thursday, August 17, 2017


to freedom
to anywhere
even out into space

but in all probability
to be crumbled
food for insects
and birds

but can any one of these
the cheerfully unhinged

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


insect lace-makers
wreak destruction
leaving behind
a kind 
of beauty
in a symbiotic cycle
of survival

Bhashwati wrote:

our leaders
wreak destruction
leaving behind 
a frayed social fabric 
a tattered economy
in a parasitic
never ending cycle
of power lust

we cower under the fig leaf of patriotism and
hail the lace on the emperor's clothes.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Deep Into Silence

the rarest, deepest, darkest thing
the most desired thing
the thing that draws you in
farther, just a little more
the thing that drowning offers

the water waits
so ready
so still

Friday, August 11, 2017

Childhood's End

Madhavi, 1968

The year was 1968, give or take one, and Sholavaram held its first, perhaps India's first, international car-racing event. Madhavi, you were about six-eight years old? Your parents, Mukund and Geeta, and some friends, I don't know how, succeeded in forcing me to go with them to see the races. Having zero if not minus interest in the zoom-zoooom-zzrrrooom proceedings, where I could not even zzzzzzz, I spend my most of my time looking at people. I was timid about taking photographs without permission, so I mostly took pictures within the group where I was a reluctant participant. I think I remember your name, Madhavi? Having already taken some of your wide-eyed pictures, I got this one, and have prized it.

Like passengers in a railway compartment or at a station, where culturally and linguistically different, divergent people meet and part, our lives also peeled away.

I have several pictures of your mother Geeta, and your grandfather, Pratap Rai Mehta, both in my collection and posted on my blog, as well as a couple of yours. I saw your mother, father and your brand-new (to me) brother last in 1995, at my one-man show sponsored by the US Consulate at Bangalore, but learned very little about you. I wanted to know about you, and more, but in the crowded hall, except for pleasantries, nothing much could be exchanged.

 By chance, if you recognise this picture, me or my name, contact me: I am very eager to know about what happened, and is happening, to you. You must be in your early 50s by now; a mother perhaps, and why not also, maybe, a grandmother. I hope very much that life has not wearied you, and that you have still not lost your wide-eyed curiosity.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


vanishing into water
full of life or lifeless
from microscopic to gigantic
named and called earth by
Man, the ultimate creature on the planet
on the scale of evolution
whose pace is incremental
insatiable in quest 
for what he believes
to be progress
is also doing his best
instead, unknown to himself
to perish

Bhashwati wrote:

Vanishing appears to me to be ice eggs nestling in a complex hydrological womb.
Pleasingly soothing to the eye but almost ominous to consciousness because all our pretensions notwithstanding, we are most certainly melting down with the planet and faster than we would like to acknowledge.   

Monday, August 07, 2017


losing its bearing
latitude and longitude
depraded by the depraved
just one single species
that it spawned

losing its coordinates
proximate to extinction

blurred definition of 
arctic antarctic 
equator capricorn
all into cancer

who called it dear mother
who made it out to be blue

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Path, Pathik

breezy, smooth
pleasantly lonely

going forward, though
are unknown hurdles
divisions, offering
confusing choices
often frighteningly lonely
instilling fear of the unknown
from somewhere to somewhere
and eventually
from nowhere to nowhere

Bhashwati wrote:

What a glorious composition of elements.
Prithvi pe path aur aasmaan mein pathik.

This universe is best left untrammelled by the human element and its dilemmas and distractions.

Thursday, August 03, 2017


whether or not
time withers you
before you perish,

all animated life,
its renewal, rejuvenation, reproduction, 
which has continued for countless centuries

is counting down
to the end of survival
in any form

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Time: Ahead Behind

I am
behind time
in everything
I think I want
to try to wish to do
and don't

wondering if it matters
to time:
if it is seeing, hearing
wondering, judging

I live
or am I being
unknown to me
by life
pushing and dragging me
eventually to leave me

rather than do
I don't
rather than use time
I step out of it
and plaintively
let it overtake me
ignore me

if time baffled
by my ineptitude
my clumsy involuntary motions
through it
into it
or out of it

what is time anyway
and for that matter, I