Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
my translations of some of her poems, again from their English translations by Stanislaw Baranczak and Claire Cavanagh
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I recently learned to tell between two[*] insomnias -
the one brought in by our being together, bodies entwined
in wanton discomfort, and the other
where they lie awake, trying to remember
Of course, I choose, without equanimity and shame,
Leave those marks of insomnia on my neck,
and I shall gladly offer you
what these bags under my eyes hold.
[*] The reference is to the following one from Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks:
When I am with you, we stay up all night,
When you’re not here, I can’t get to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Eyes tinted with last night's desires -
variously met and unmet -
men walk past me
to their days of toil.
I become taut at the attention
from the morning eyes
all weak with a conviction
to keep desire in check -
toes may tingle, but inside the shoes;
the fount may tease to spring forth, but
not beyond the belt;
the heart might well up, but
can choke at the tie knot.
Desire still rushes to the pupil
and peeps out.
Even ones like me are seen
in the rush hour flurry of bodies
by eyes craving the night.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Oh, Kanna! The lord of the rain that is as endless as the ocean...
While growing up in Kumbakonam, particularly during the monsoons, this song perpetually came forth from me. For the clouds gathered every few hours before breaking open and falling on earth in heavy pellets of rain, sending the plantain trees in the garden down with their crops in whatever stage of fruition. But before falling the trees stood beautiful against the monsoon grey, dripping rain drops from the edges of their torn leaves that looked like elephant ears when they rubbed against the translucent window panes. And this particular Thiruppaavai (a work in 30 verses written by Aandal, in 9th century AD, on Vishnu, her love) was the unfailing background music for this duration of my childhood in Kumbakonam. I never thought of inquiring why. I assumed it was because the word "mazhai" (rain) featured in the very first line of the song.
Yesterday, as I looked out the living room window of this Chennai apartment and saw the ends of the casuarina tree shuddering against a dark sky in a sudden breeze, I sang again. I rushed to the terrace of the three-floor apartment and looked at the sea.
Do not withhold any of your generosity. You must enter the ocean, inhale the waters and rise to the skies with a thundering noise....
The clouds were moving in from the west and towards the sea, giving a very brief and brilliant shower, but nevertheless scaring the womenfolk into quickly retrieving the clothes drying in the balconies. A domestic help came running to the terrace, cursing the rain, to gather the red chillies laid out to dry on a jute sack. She gathered the sack into a tentative pile and rushed out, shielding it from the rain by holding it against her chest and bending over it in a gesture of protection.
You should darken like the body of Narayana, the lord who holds a lotus from his navel, whose shoulders are strong...
Everything had acquired a darker hue. The sky, darkening in its desire to give, had made the trees greener somehow. The sea too appeared to have darkened into a bluegray and, at the horizon, looked as if it curled upwards into the sky, planning to wrap everything into its fold.
…and shine like the discus on his right hand and resound like the conch on his left...
And that's when I knew why I sang this song.
The Prakara at Oppiliyappan Kovil was great fun, though it was not as long as the ones in Sarangapani or Chakrapani temples. But Oppiliyappan was the family deity and had also assumed a greater importance by the fact that he required a bit of a ride to get to, while Sarangapani and Chakrapani were in Kumbakonam, very close to the daily hangouts, easily accessible for examination-inspired prayers. Oppiliyappan had a village to his name, had buses stopping there, letting out hordes of noisy pilgrims rushing to buy his favourite Tulasi garlands and red and white lotuses before entering the temple. Tulasi was what the whole place smelled of. And camphor. That was the fragrance of the holy water too. Dark tulasi leaves and camphor would have floated on the water in the silver bowl for hours, turning the water fragrant. When the priest hurriedly gave you a spoonful of it and you drank it off the palm of your right hand curved to a dip, it was as if you drank the place itself, taking it all in.
Right after the darshanam, you walked around the Prakara, rushing out into its wider space after being squished out and released from the darkness and focussed importance of the main shrine. The first stretch of the Prakara had paintings corresponding to each Thiruppaavai. They were multicolor, modern-looking, oil-paint-on-stone-wall freezes of scenes described in the Thiruppavai verses. Aandal and her friends were all indistinguishably beautiful, sashaying about in long paavaadais (ankle-length silk skirts). Krishna, the cows, the trees, the gardens – everyone and everything shone with prosperity. Below each painting were etched on granite slabs the lines of each verse. My mother and I would stand and recite the familiar verses every time, looking just at the paintings, without any need to look at the lines at all.
The fourth one was my favourite. It had Aandal and her friends standing together, looking reverently at the sky. The sky was Narayana himself, shown not in the bright colours that filled the rest of the frame, but in a dark grey, rising out of the sea in such a whoosh that you could not see his feet, but just a dark cloud rising from the depths, curving into the sky and becoming Narayana himself, smiling, leaning over the world in benevolence. A streak of lighting, too, in a corner.
Just like the rain of arrows that come forth from the Saarnga bow that Narayana holds, Oh, Krishna, you too shower timely rain on us so that the world may live on and we shall rejoice in it...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
She crossed the sea and came to me,
for whom the battalions' march pounded
only in the bold, big and black letters
of the headlines.
I stopped nursing my insomnia and
started nursing hers.
I became her child and her sisters
and their killers, and she brought in the war
with her kisses, kicks and slaps,
and I wept and laughed with her,
bizzarely thankful for any role;
helpless spectatorship to a remembered war
is worse than
helpless spectatorship to a real war.
So I would cry and scream and fight
and throw my head from side to side
at imagined slaps,
and would close my eyes shut
as her legs were spread open
to make way for the warriors.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
when you get something right,
a smile of small victories,
a suppression of a yippie
a yoohoo a jump a hug;
a kiss if I’m lucky.
I shall secretly gather
glowing bright balls of success,
drop them one by one
from hiding for you
to pick them up
and smile like that often,
a yippe yoohoo jump hug,
and a kiss if I’m lucky.
A song of separation.
Tossed by love and dreams
I am so lovesick it hurts in the gut.
And gut is the depth I cry from
as an old lesson is learnt afresh:
a watched phone does not ring.
I did not know I would be washed
my love slapping me
on another rocky shore.
A cliched nayika of padhams
was the last role I wanted, but
I do it so well: I wait, I long,
I cry and I am alone,
except in my dreams.
That's splendid, she mocked, hands on waist,
her made-up mind shining in her eyes,
pinning me flat, once again,
to my field of failures.
She is always around when I mess up,
bearing bright and burning witness to it all,
over and over, dropping on me
like wax from a burning candle,
punching them sealed with a stony silence
almost always grabbing a drink
after the job is done. And I always think
she would then stride up to me,
tear a seal open, giving me
something to lick.
Morbid, I know.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
And bursts each bubble
That leaves my mouth.
She turns swiftly on her toes,
Twirls to her own laughter,
Laughs to each burst.
Wave upon renewed wave
Of wicked breathless laughter.
I am driven to a helpless silence
For fear of setting her off
Sense is what I make
Truth is what I utter
When I don't stir her mirth.
She never peppers with her cackle
Nor burst with her prickle
The naked truths of my dreams.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
is the moral of the week.
Stare at the sky at dusk
as long as you want or
as long as it lasts,
eat away at the end of your pencil,
cross and uncross your legs forever,
The sky's blue-pink smudge does not care
to write itself down and stay forever
on a stupid blog;
it is meant not to last.
The sea might splash and dash and roar
on your page, but it does it all better
Even personal drama passes
like mint chew on the tongue.
It makes for tastelessly gooey verse.
Friends and family are usually kind
to familiar mediocrity blogging away.
But you must be kind too,
give them something,
a word, a phrase, a line, some wit
they can justify their kindness by.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Give me a little less love.
A steady trickle if you will,
Even in spurts now and then.
Think of me in smaller terms.
Picture me as taking it
In my joined hands.
My hands, as you know,
Are not good with floods and dam-breaks,
cascades and deluges.
Give me love that keeps me going,
that does not choke, does not kill,
does not wash me far away
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
succulent throbbing globes
in the mirror,
filling my hands like bowls
They were not the sad, hairy absences
my hands now grate over.
The mirror's sweet lie look me close
to baby lips - joining soul to soul
through my pointed pink soul ends,
the tickle and pinch of nourishing.
There is a lot more to a mirror
than a boring reflection of imperfections.
It gets playful sometimes,
poetic even, irreal as well,
And shows what is not,
but could have been
and could be.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
That are not.
Either just not there
Or had and lost.
So fantasy or pain of loss.
Tolkiens have exclusive rights
To the former
While mine is a larger group
Called the romantics.
Membership demands are
All you need are problems
Of personality and
Some masochism: no proof
Of identity needed.
All humans qualify.
Conjuring up “friends”
When we feel
What we want to say
Will sound better
Oh, I have a friend who used to…
I think I am one of them.
I mean I am one
Of those “friends”
By someone somewhere
Using me as a proxy
Like a test-drive vehicle.
If it works
They make more;
They improve upon it.
Or simply give up.
No complaints: first drafts
Can never be disowned.
Glass cases in museums
If their author dies
A memorable death.
Or to Sothebys.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Only morning air on my lips,
It hurts just hurts to wake up
To a day that has no you.
To a day that has no promises
of mock-anger and true love.
To one that isn't sweetened
By the sweat on your nape.
It's all effort to get up and get by
On a day that wraps you in a night
Over there out there on the other side.
I am already your tomorrow
So I can tell you how it hurts.
Since you love me oh so much
Be warned about tomorrow,
Be warned about this day
That has no promises.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
That's how it always had to be.
There. You had said that.
And that's that.
The end of things.
They can now fester in the silence
that clatters like spoons on china.
They can now grow and cloud my eyes.
They will now hide
in the new space
between you and me
when we hug.
You will not know how I wonder
at how normal you are.
Normal shall not be wondered at.
But we will carry on
Just as we always have.
Until one day I scream,
drowning it in the cry
of the fire engine,
making you more normal than ever,
giving you another chance to say
"See! I told you!"
It will all be like just a screech
of chalk on blackboard.
The lesson's the same.
All the time.