Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Convert Reflects

The priest said I must have killed
a holy snake in my previous life;
and so my crops don't grow and
the cow died, and the baby too.
For a hundred rupees, the priest
will plead with the Gods for mercy.
If I had a hundred rupees, the baby
would have had milk, and lived.

'What good is a God that needs a bribe'
the missionary asks in a gentle voice
'You did not have a previous life
and killed no snakes; come to me
Jesus will save you and end your woes.'
So I went; but even with a new name,
new prayer and God, the crop failed
and my eldest son became very sick.

When I asked the missionary why,
he told me it was my fate to suffer
because of a man he called Adam
and the apple that was eaten by him:
all this at the behest of a snake.
And so I now pay for his mistakes.
What matter which God I worship?
It is snakes who determine my fate!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Chastisement For A Proud And Flawed Pink Zinnia

Careless smudge of Heavenly hand
You blot of pink on canvas green
By all but one passer by unseen
Yet now the beloved of the land

You smile brightly, but you mistook
Chance for a more deserved fate
Who would ever think you great
Had one not stopped by to look?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Love Song of a Penniless Student

My two ears know no sweeter sound
than your casual “so see you around.”
My sad heart leaps out of all its sorrow
knowing you’ll wait for me tomorrow.
Come hail or snow, I’ll be there at eleven.
(For where you are is my personal heaven.)
We’ll meet, without a thought for the day’s inevitable graying
For your files need reviewing, and boss, my bills need paying.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


In a tree behind the museum, a little birdie sings.
I am half sure it’s one of those installation things
that crazy artists put up everywhere they please:
mechanical birdsong drifting on artificial breeze.
Invisible little birdie will never be found dead.
Invisible little birdie will not poop on your head.

In the dazzling city of splendour sans reprieve
it’s no surprise I find it difficult to believe
that there’s a live bird in yonder museum tree
and it chooses to sing out of sorrow or glee.

Monday, November 21, 2005


On the theatre floor, safe from disgrace,
anonymous vomit flows.
And backstage, Hamlet stares into space
while he picks his nose.

(written in disgust at the state of my community kitchen that students have abused till it smells like a dead dog.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

On Visiting St Paul’s Cathedral

Heavenly Father, who in Heaven must be:
for in Wren’s cathedral, though I do see
matchless splendour, there’s no divinity.

Those angels hovering in the air
are to my willful eye passing fair.
And it will not shut itself in prayer.

The feast is laid, and the senses will dine

Pardon me, for I must stray awhile
to return that darling cherub’s smile
and to admire old architectural style

At midnight sharp, by St Paul’s clock
I shall sit by the river on the sidewalk
And there, in silence, we shall talk

You in your Heaven, and me in mine

Friday, October 28, 2005

making mischief

If no spectre of inspiration is haunting you
You can right a poem just by vaunting too

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

:'-( Part II

London by night is very grand;
but you are no longer mine.
So on Blackfriars bridge I stand
turning the Thames to brine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


A night of doubts, a night of fears
Of caramel peanuts salted with tears

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Captive

The chimp ceaselessly beats out its rage
Against the unrelenting bars of the cage
I turn and leave: I think it can see
That I am a prisoner of my apathy

Sunday, August 21, 2005


"I must get going now, I have a lot to do
How time flies when I am talking to you!
Oh, don't say goodbye! I'm here, my pet
I must go eventually, but not just yet"

And that's how ruthless Love wields power
And causes you to die twice within an hour

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Love Poem

Two dozen red carnations in a faux crystal jug
Cuddly cushions meticulously scattered on the rug
His favorite song playing: "I'm love's biggest fool"
And a bowl of red cherries on a low leather stool

Three little flames in their polished candlesticks
A feast sitting in the oven, slowly cooking till six
And two tiny drops of arsenic in the jasmine tea
For my not-so-true love is coming to dine with me

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Left together, Whirl together
Step two three, Step two three
Right together, Twirl together
Step two three, Step two three

Honeymoon in France together
Step two three, Step two three
Dreaming in advance together
Step two three, Step two three

Don’t we look so good together
Step two three Step two three
Let us knock on wood together
Step two three Step two three

Each one into the other blends
Step two three
Till the music ends

Monday, July 18, 2005

The NRI Ponders

I believe what the CNN lady says
And I spend my nights and days
In a redblue redblue redblue haze

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Sapling

I’m sorry sir, but you will just
have to build your skyscraper elsewhere.
You see, one really, really must
plant a sapling here: all this sun and air!

A town needs its share of towers:
I do not doubt that you serve humankind.
But my child will never see flowers
if I don’t leave this little sapling behind.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Window Cleaner

Soap, a bucket and three kinds of mop
(Plus a spare, in case one’s ill-fated)
And blind zeal that will not let him stop
Till the last black speck is eliminated

He can scrub and scrub without pause
Ignoring the chuckles of all who pass
But the grime will never go, because
He’s cleaning the wrong side of the glass

I shake my head, smile sadly, and walk past him
On my way to change the world to suit my whim

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Insha Allah

With these two words, I hereby
barter my ego and all my fear
for comfort in knowing that I
can only propel; I cannot steer.

Forgive me if I ignore the praises you heap.
I traded them for nights of dreamless sleep.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Well, you couldn’t exactly call me smart:
I believe everything I see, and more.
I am sure there exists, albeit unseen,
A reddish-yellowish shade of green,
a pearl necklace that a mermaid wore
and a poem by someone who broke a heart.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Sunrise Chaser

Sleep comes to me in broken pieces now
I purchase it cheap at the wholesale store
I wake up early mornings: no matter how
much I want, sleep will come no more

So I sit in my window long before dawn
And wait for him to appear out of the night
With the first glitter in the dew on the lawn
The sunrise chaser rushes to welcome the light

He runs around the world following the sun
His face aglow with the joy of a new start
And though today I am too feeble to run
I chase the sunrise with him in my heart

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Evil Musings

Happiness is inherently perfidious
It brings envious onlookers to doom
Like canned laughter, which is hideous
When the TV is in the other room

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Phonecall To The Weather Department

“Hello. Is that the weather department?”
“Yes madam. How can I help you?”
“There is something strange happening here
You see, we finally had rain this year
Your scientists said it was long overdue
I was stuck for two days in my apartment!”

“That happens, madam when the rains fall.
What exactly is it that’s bothering you?”

“The smell, Son. That lovely smell. It appeared
just before the rain, and the air was smeared
with sweetness, it was magic all through
And it slowly faded till it wasn’t there at all.”

“Ah madam. That is the smell of the earth
As it receives the first drops of rain
It’s a wonder you never smelled it before.”

“Oh wonderful! I couldn’t thank you more
Ah! I just have to try and I can smell it again:
that musty scent of an impending birth.

Just one more question comes to mind
The raindrops in my desert land are few
But there are places where it rains all year
Does the earth smell sweet perpetually, my dear?”
“It does madam. Each time it rains anew.”
“Ah well, praise the Lord. He is kind!”

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Reporter

We leave the couch and we gargle and rinse
as we return to work we’ve neglected since
we buried the Pope and married the Prince.

More pressing matters await our attention
Like the Cardinals’ holy war of ascension
And the surly Regent’s water retention.

Monday, March 28, 2005


What would our friend Sisyphus do
if someone stole his precious rock?
My guess is he would continue
his usual uphill and downhill walk.

I see him push back his unruly hair
as I walk endlessly, aimlessly, alone.
I press my palms against invisible air
Sisyphus, at least, has his trusty stone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Want

I am a simple girl, who wants simple things
like the Sun, the Moon, and all the Stars…
No! Do not smile till I have finished!
This is not one of those witty poems where
people say something and mean something else
Talking about the Sun and Moon, I want them
to stay put where they are, and keep doing
what they’ve become so good at over the years.

I quite like they way they divide their work
It’s the only way they could co-exist so long
The orange sun winking through the clouds
to wake me up, and then making the roads so hot
that I am glad to have a place to hide from it.
And then chucking my chin in the evening
to make sure I am not angry at it, and leaving
only when I am smiling at its fading redness.

The moon meanwhile hides somewhere in the sky,
not wanting to steal the Sun’s thunder; for even
on the brightest day there are people who admire
beauty that is subtler. When the Sun gone
the Moon hesitantly steps in, and willingly takes
a backseat if I have a candle or suchlike
You’d think being meek would be easy, but
the Moon tires and wanes, so we also have Stars.

How nice it would be if we could invite the
Sun and Moon and Stars for a conference
and serve them coffee, (iced for the Sun, please).
They would teach us management better than
ponytailed professors ever could. And perhaps
when we have learnt to be beautiful together
and give up dividing the indivisible skies
we would manage to get some work done.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Guruprasad Udupi

The comely girl absent-mindedly dips
a chunk of idli in the sambhar bowl,
while the awkward lad silently sips
buttermilk, and swallows a chilli whole.

Two tables away, the parents have begun
talk of what would be a suitable day,
sure their child will approve of this one
and feel glad at having had a say.

On the wall, the management's comments
are lost in the crowd of a dozen signs:
"We make all marriage arrangements."
And so caterers further cosmic designs.

Three years hence, the couple will be back
and order two thalis, and Baby will cry:
passed back and forth in its blanket pack.
And food will get cold while the poppadums fly.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


In Amma’s cupboard behind
the neatly stacked petticoats
your curious fingers will find
a bundle of crinkly notes

Not the currency kinds; she
does not care to stash
money, for in our family
we hide feelings, not cash

Therefore, good sense abiding,
you’ll put them back unread.
For you too have notes hiding
under your unmade bed.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Patient

It can be very embarrassing
to sit outside the doctor’s clinic
(between a man with a splinter in his thumb
and a woman with a mote in her eye),
waiting to be treated for a grazed soul

Cupid shoots arrows half-heartedly in all directions these days.

Monday, February 14, 2005


I gently walked into the museum hall
Second left, then second right
The dome above made me feel so small
I looked up at its starless night

Another left, and there it stood
The relic they had praised to the skies
One man’s tribute to human-hood
Displayed here for the whole world’s eyes

I stood and gazed, not quite spellbound
Trying to see what made it great
Curious, I ventured next to walk around
I observed, till it grew quite late

A million catalogues had screamed
I “just had to” see this matchless work of art
So many friends had always dreamed
Of a glimpse that would soothe the saddest heart

The sculpture’s upturned eyes were grey
Gazing at the starless night above
I turned my back and gently walked away
From Exhibit 15CFS: Love

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Baby Show

I recently was witness to a Baby Show
With Dads and Moms with kids in tow

Brimming with pride, an eager sire
Held forth his baby for me to admire

“How pretty! How sweet!” he himself said
Me, I found the cherub far too red

“How very angelic!” everyone cried
“Now see mine! Now mine!” they vied

Babies were held forth one by one all morn
As I watched, I wondered how they were born

Some of maidens in towers long locked-up
Some of strumpets accidentally knocked up

Sired by sinners and sired by saints
Some early prayers, some late complaints

Babies of all shapes and almost all sizes
The organizers gave them all lovely prizes

I smiled at the darlings, and pulled a cheek
And turned away from those gruesome and weak

By the time I left, the pain had gone wild
I came home and delivered a stillborn child

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Truth is...

So dark, so bright
Like a rainy night
So bound, so free
Like poetry

Monday, February 07, 2005


When your fingers lock with mine
Five and five make one
Sometimes we must redefine
The rules of addition

You can hold my hand and not let go
But my spirit wanders free
A part of me you’ll never know
Our one and one is three

Thursday, February 03, 2005


(Inspired by the following lines from the Heretic: Love only lasts for strangers/ who met when the night was younger)

Madam are you expecting a friend?
I’m really getting late
My wife complains it’s become a trend
I’m not up to a debate

But it’s a great job I’ve landed here
Make some good money too
Here’s your…well let’s see…seventh beer
And the last, I must beg you

Arm in arm kids crowd around
I mix each one a drink
The music’s loud, it drowns the sound
Of how young lovers think

Later at night the gentlemen arrive
With the “ladies” around town
Blue Label makes our business thrive
And lets their gelled hair down

The last ones in are the lonely hearts
Trickling in hunched up to mope
Some broken often, in various parts
And shattered past all hope

A gentleman just looked in and left
Was he the one you sought?
Bald? Or should I say hair-bereft
Not him? I should’ve thought

You sure he’s coming? It’s awfully late
And I have to close up soon

They never keep the late night date
With old stars under the new moon

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Business Reopens for the Evening

Makkhan Singh lolled in his chair
A fly buzzed perched on his nose
Heaps of laddoos were everywhere
But the fly cared not for those

With one half open eye our friend
Observed the adventurous fly
One thwack put its adventure to end
And it fell among laddoos to die

‘Flies! What a bother!’ Makkhan cried
‘This time of year when business is good
The management should use pesticide
Instead of burning sandalwood’

At four he rose and sounded the conch
And eager devotees broke the queue
Money was showered on the idol’s paunch
And each devotee got a laddoo

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I love you, my dearest daughter
I moulded you in my own fire
I’ll change wine back to water
If that’s your heart’s desire

Carry the spark far and wide
Take time to return to the fold
I’ll wait up here while you decide
Gods, at least, don’t grow old

Find your lamp and light it
Millions in darkness await you
And if there’s a gale, fight it
I caused it, and not because I hate you

(A vocation in life to all. Amen.)

Monday, January 31, 2005


Holding my hand against the light
I see lines few others would spot
A burnt trail (the saucepan was hot)
An old gash from a childish fight

Bite marks from a stifled scream
Nail semicircles on a nervous palm
Razor marks untreated with balm
Prints from a hand-holding dream

Fortune-tellers will never know
What lines decide how fate must go

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


There is an undetected crack
In the construction
Between the first and second floors
Of the universe
The sun does not shine into the crack
On most days
It is a dark space with no reason to exist

I live there
The undetected crack in the construction
Between yesterday
Which I hold responsible for all my mistakes
And tomorrow
Which does not let the sun shine on me
On most days

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


My podgy little index finger
Was still warm
And moist
From being held in your hand

It gripped an iron rail
I felt it grow strong
And cold
The day I learned to stand

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Don’t Move!




You are welcome!

So, what were you saying?
You’re through with me?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

File > New

The cursor throbs
Against the white screen
The tease beckons me
To tell all to Microsoft Word

As if by blackening the screen I will become white again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


When I remember what I have done
I block my thoughts
And shut my eyes tight
And cover my eyelids with my palms
And my palms with my knees
And the whole with a blanket

But the blanket is covered
With a sticky sense of guilt
Which oozes through the layers
Reminding me it is useless
To try and shut out
Something that is within

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


To cleave
Is to join
And also to part
Isn’t that smart?

Twenty years
We have cleaved
Mind and heart
Together. And apart.

Like a sticker
Pulled off once
And in vain
Stuck again

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Raat gyarah baje
Amma ke saath sair pe nikli

“Koi jo tumhein samjhega
Wahi tumse shaadi karega
Bachpana chhod do ab”

Haarsingaar ka phool
Haath mein kuchalte hue
Maine kuchh nahin kaha

Ghar aake dekha
Haath peeley ho gaye hain

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Day After

Black half moons cup my eyes
My guilty hands weigh down my arms
It looked like daring enterprise
But time dissolved the quixotic charms

I will swallow the unborn scream
And of the deed leave not a sign
I will sleep, and I will dream
And in that dream all will be fine

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Thinking of you
Is like running a finger
Along the jagged edges
Of an old Tupperware lid
While talking on the phone
With a consultant
About money

Thursday, August 26, 2004


I painted a sheet black
And cut up some silver bits
I pinned up the silver and the black
And across the ceiling it sits

When I flash the torch at night
The silver beams back at me
I have not seen a sky
But this is what a sky must be

I looked at you when you didn’t know
And painted you in my head
I smiled when I saw you happy
And your sorrow left me dead

In my dreams you see me too
Holding hands, you walk with me
I have not seen love
But this is what love must be

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Mid-Day Ramblings

Busy ants made a palace of grit
And the mountains laughed at the audacity of it

In small ellipses the moths did flit
And the planets smiled at the audacity of it

The glow worms on the branch did sit
And the stars frowned at the audacity of it

A condemned man’s throat was slit
And the Lord wept at the audacity of it

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Just Scribbling

This girl was less than more alright
Busy people never saw it at first sight
But if you took a close, hard look
Your poor little heart would surely be shook
This was none of your minor complications
She had four heads: pointing in four directions!

East and West and North and South
She spoke to each with a different mouth
If that’s not already tough to swallow
She did not know which nose to follow
Tempted to run four simultaneous races
She mostly fell flat on one of her faces

Advice from elders and wisdom from seers
Poured into one head from eight eager ears
Perceptions were morphed and tangled inside
Living by fours where one should reside
She could see four sides to everything in life
And all the four sides were constantly at strife

Never sure whether she was coming or going
She became ill-willed and tantrum-throwing
Unable to escape the multiplicity ghost
She finally stood still and became a signpost
There she stands, watching the world go by
Two faces smile, and two of them cry

Monday, June 28, 2004


With what elan they thrust and parried
Till money won, and love miscarried
I often wonder who is more harried
The one he cheated, or the one he married?

Thursday, June 17, 2004


My eyelids are heavy and my smiles are brittle
Have I slept too long and dreamt too little?

Friday, May 07, 2004

Midnight Ramblings

Air-blown kisses are just that: Air
Promises made to be broken are fair
The only smiles that last
Are those in iron cast
And stolen glances don’t mean you care