Holi

( Published in Countercurrents.org on 29th March, 2021)

“…the destruction of what you people call evil, is less just and desirable than the conversion of this evil into what you call good…”

 — The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

We play with the colours of

dawn, spraying the world

with spring, with happiness,

with birds that are willing to

 

sing. Liturgies lace our lives with

absolutes. For some, we kill. Holika

died. Has evil ever been annihilated

by the external searing of holy

 

flames? Fodder to appease fiery

Agni’s unceasing appetite, is

destruction the sole solution?

Or can absolution be sought in the

 

conversion to good? In quest

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Two Poems of Rabindranath Tagore: Translated by Mitali Chakravarty

First Published in SETU, December, 2020

1

Against the monsoon Skies… from BhanusingherPadabali

(from Shaongaganeghorghanaghata, BhanusingherPadabali)

Against the monsoon skies, heavy clouds wrack the deep of night.

How will a helpless girl go through the thick groves,Ofriend,

Crazed winds sweep by the Yamuna, the clouds thunder loud.

The lightning strikes, the trees have fallen, the body trembles

In the heavy rain, the clouds shower a downpour.

Under the shaal, piyale, taal, tamal trees, the grove is lonely and quiet at night.

Where, friend, is he hiding in this treacherous grove

And enticing us with his wonderful flute calling out to Radha?

Put on a garland of pearls, a shithi* in my parting…

Click here to read the translations

Leaden Wings & More…

First published in SETU, December, 2020



Sometimes, 
Sometimes, you need to throw off leaden wings to fly.
Fly — soar the skies. Reach up to the sun, moon and stars. To the universe. Sometimes you need to throw off leaden wings to fly.


Soar like an eagle, a bird high up in flight where wingtip to wingtip spans the infinite; where auroras have ceased to colour the sky. Where nebulae blink in the deep of night. Where the Great Bear speaks the truth and Orion’s Belt lights the darkness to a white. Sometimes, you throw the leaden wings to fly — not to be like Icarus and die — but detaching the wings fly, fly —


Like the bird that breaks all bounds despite the loud cannon sounds and across to the neighbouring skies. No lines are drawn. The lands can be at war. But the sky borderless lies. Unhindered the clouds float. Where songs soar in strange silent waves. Where silence a sound breaks with the speed of light.


There, there will I fly
in quest of an unbordered ...

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Bapu

First published in SETU, October 2020

Will he be reborn again?


Nonviolent, tolerant, defiant of norms
that lock people into boxes


Searingly honest


Who said he was great?


He was like you and me —
A student who evaded
difficult courses in university,
who was scared to give speeches.
A timid man was he — looked for easy options.
The only redemption,
his love of truth—


Who said he was great?


A quiet man who silently
sliced, analysed from inside
till peel by peel, he unravelled the mysteries
that life invited. Self-reflected devoid
of the glory that borders weave,
spliced hatred, dirt
till it all changed to tolerance and love.
Weaponised unviolenced silence


Who said he was great?


Lived for his passion — One world
undivided by faith, colour or creed.
Caste he defied when he crossed
the seas. No hatred for skin colours.
Fought with his wife. And yet
tried to give every human their rights.
He was a man — not a divine.


Who said he was great?


He nursed. Loved goats.
His own sons wept for uncare,
for they suffered — no school...

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Migrants

First published in Countercurrents, October 2020

The mass migrants to Mars
stood poised to take their first step.
The Red Planet crimsoned further
by the blood of scientists who
realised the vision of a
musky monied man odoured
with fame, made into godhead.
Out of deep freeze, led by the god
who saved them, stood more monied men.
 
They had left a planet in turmoil.
A methane-filled viral sun burnt with heat.
I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe —
became the norm. The cry of those
condemned to die in the coils of
poisoned air or floods that ate
the land. No place left to stand.
Reddened by sunsets on rising seas,
humans treaded water till deadened —
leadened by weight they sunk into
an Ophelia like stupor, the kiss of death.
Lands that glowed with heat turned aflame...

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Margins

First Published in Different Truths, October 2020, as a commemorative poem for Gandhi’s birth anniversary, October 2020

 
 A cloud that drifted in the sky, paused, 
 wafted close to the boundary line and sighed.
 

 What is it with mankind, that they divide?
 See the boundary line that rips drips blood —
 

 See that child, what is she? Poor or rich? 
 Yet a hurricane or flood can level them all clean.
 

 What is her caste? What is her faith?
 Strange, they all have the same flesh and blood! 
 

 Why do they have the need to classify? 
 They give so many names and then they fight.
 

 Snuffing out lives with violence and hate.
 Why do they think they are so great?
 

 They cannot even get it right.
 Intelligence is a privilege.
 

 To be born, is a miracle,
 To live, to breath, a wonder.
 

 They could just revel in so much:
 

 To see sunrises beyond my times
 To dance in the rain which ends my life ...

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The Golden Deer

First Published in Different Truths, September 2020

 

 The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane
  — Marcus Aurelius
 

 Madness 
 To you a paean mankind should sing
 give you the place of a Queen
 

 Condemned by life is 
 King Lear. Insanity borne of loss
 forgets the life that links 
 Man to the Superman
 

 forgets the inherent Divinity
 that defines life outside
 the little boxes of unhappiness 
 caused by manmade divides —
 

 people marginalised —
 

 Instead of seeing what they have,
 they cry for what they have not
 

 The golden deer that 
 led to Sita being kidnapped 
 remains trapped in phyletic minds 
 as the ultimate annihilating goal for all mankind
 
 

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Colours

First published in Countercurrents; Translated to Nepali twice, republished in Nepali in Sahityapost and in Sharada, their oldest literary journal

Am I white, black, purple or pink?
 
Names given by mankind
to diverse reflections of light
 
Names given to create
borders between colours
 
Colours earlier that rainbow spelt
Now lead only to bloodshed,
violence, gore, hatred.
 
Where is the love
that Lalon sang?
 
Where is the note
that played on the flute
harmonising
black with white?
 
Where are the piano keys
that together string melodies?
 
Tell me, tell me,