Thursday, September 29, 2011

a year older
just as besotted by
crisp word
dappled green
peach-lined skies
and you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Exploring gold spun
This nine day festival of the Mother Goddess
Grace is in the air.
the drum faint in the distance
A celebration
Also a time to ponder upon
Chance and happenstance
mysteries and gifts
the benedictions of our lives
such as this
and not

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Stories in the Songs

A musical, seen this Sunday
Performed with minimal props
featured performances that gleam
burnished with years of rigorous classical training
Pitch perfect, the notes quiver and turn and float in the air
In the quiet amphitheater
No room for improvisation
The audience a scarce inch away

That traced the evolution of Indian classical music
Through the ages
Even as the country was overrun with invaders of various vintage
From the Mughals to the British
Thumri, tappa, chaiti, hori, kajri
Derived from the classical,
giving lifebreath to the classical
Forms that survived, thrived,
A thread inching, meandering,
Insistent, full throated
Through these centuries

From the rendition of a dancing girl
Who sneaked in a freedom song in her performance
At the behest of the Mahatma
To the sincere if fumbling, warbling
Of Lady Elizabeth Hastings
Who tried to learn this difficult form of entertainment
From a polished native performer of the arts.
And so many other tales.

Even as I clapped to the beat, and hummed and cheered and laughed
Flashes of yesterday
Crept in unannounced;
Of notes filtering past the heat haze
Of voices in unison, rising skywards
A fun duet, now competing, now out-doing
In the manner of the young
I blinked.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This afternoon
The child who wandered by the roadside
Looked out of place in this maze of industrial-office blocks
Even as cars zipped by
to drop important personage to important meetings.
Was not a slum kid, not a beggar
Her face clean
Dress neat
Pretty bangles on her wrist
Blue flip flops
She willingly gives me her hand
As I take her to a nearby construction site
That I presume she’s wandered off from
“Where’s mummy?” I ask, looking around for a laborer, maybe the mason’s wife
She points to an office block next door
“Biscuit” she lisps.
And even as I peel off the glittery wrapping
I can only wonder
At the compulsions
And life story
Of a woman who’d perforce leave her child
Wandering by the roadside
Some sun-dappled afternoon

Monday, September 19, 2011

On your birthday

I stare at my face in the mirror
And wonder about you
My nose is like yours, they say.
And demeanor
(but only when I’m good)
I stare at my face in the mirror
Trace fine lines
And think
About lifetimes, crisscrossing paths, DNA imprints
And wonder about
Free choice, chance, fate
And other unknowns
Like you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My lesson for this week
(for a life time)
Is that dreams can come true
Even impossible ones
Crazy ones
That young girl from a remote village in the Himalayas
Made it to Prague film school
Winged it!
Sponsored by unnamed strangers
Who chipped in, piecemeal
Penny by penny
Like that ad says,
keep your head down, and keep walking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Because I must not forget.
That early morning awakening
After checking the clock every hour past midnight
Leaving home at 4, determined, devout
The journey, traffic on the road
The twenty minute walk to find the end of the line
Past vendors, children, trinket-sellers, crowds
With trumpets, balloons, toys to sell.
The rush rush rush to hold on to your place

as the line winds past the lanes of Byculla
Negotiating a tricky maze, and then again
Just holding on, nudging, jostling in that few thousand strong crowd
For a glimpse of the deity, but fleeting
Before you’re pushed out
Yet, something’s changed,

you know your year’s moved to a new plane.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

*Set free*, my translation of Shri Pravinsinh Chavda's Gujarati short story *Mukti*, features in the Sept.- Oct. issue of Reading Hour.
There is a Dhara in each of us, in the choices that we make. Sometimes the only redeeming feature of life is, that life goes on.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Where does the faith come from, he asked.
From having the faith battered a few hundred times, like an old tin can
From hitting ground zero with no where to go
Once too often
from knowing edge-of-the-mind distraught
And coming full circle.
From coincidences that fall in place, Oh… like that.
And missing catastrophe by a whisker’s breadth.
So often.
For the lessons of a bitter decade, in retrospect, amazing grace.
From glittering empty roads that you try to master, literally and figuratively,
fumbling, heart a-thunder
From the clatter of shrouded gurneys that pass by your head as you do ICU vigil
From trembling courage as you gather piles of new clothes now useless, for charity
From events that seem life shattering, but a boon in retrospect
From the people you meet. Over and over again.

Monday, September 05, 2011

You are the rhythm underlying the world,
Or so the prayer’s verse goes.
This is what I see:
The cycle of seasons, of rain pelting earth
Of the pulsating beat of colors and echoes that rebound
Exploding volcanoes, and crashing trees, red hot magma surging
In a blink of an eye, a lifespan, the three ages
The rise and collapse of civilizations, and crumbling ruins of Mohenjodaro

Wind ruffles the grass as it flows past
A heart thudding, lifeblood coursing through infinite channels
Traced by a machine beep
The swell of tides under a moonlit sky
Of the howl of wind across a bare desert
Magna throbbing in the center of the earth
That surge of green as sap gushes skywards
Pulsating stars in the deepest void
That intricate dance of infinite city lights
Of traffic rushing, blending, diverging, through
The world’s freeways
Of intellect, of a man’s grasp exceeding his reach,
Verily, you are this.