Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bhutan Chronicle No. 6

When you visit me this weekend
Do not rush your return.
Every night, I see your nightbulb
Flicker in the opposite hills,
Like Morse Code.
I want to see you coming
Stealthily, like the wind from the mountains,
Which creeps in every night
Through the wall cracks.
The uphill walk has made you pant,
And beads of sweat glisten on your skin..
Like white pebbles on a moonlit night
By the river Jhelum.
Your "Dupatta' looks drunk tonight,
Slurring this way and that.
And that mole on your breast,
Sits like an unfrequented well
On the mountain top,
Out of reach, Yet desired,
Every time it is looked upon.
Do not rush this weekend...
There are places to go,
Maps that your nails and fingers
Will draw on my skin.
There are depths to dive in,
Walls to mend,
And wounds to heal
Mazes to unlock
And gibberish spoken when
The birds chirp me out of your clothes.
Do not rush your return,
The weekends between these mountains
Are rather long.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bhutan Chronicle No. 4

They say winters come early in Kashmir
Since the 1990's,
Even evening comes early.
A sudden whistle and a few heavy footsteps
And everyone's back home

Shops are shut,
And "Dal" stops flowing.
I remember Kashmir in old Hindi films
And in newspaper clippings
And your phone calls from Pahalgaom
All three in black and white.
Those nights, when you stole your father's phone,
The valley crept in
Through the 6 min. conversations.
The pines and the "Chinaar' rustling
The Sunday marketplace bustling
A gunshot here
A gun wound there
A life lost here
And "Mission Accomplished" there.
Shahid said  no trains enter
This Valley of Death.
Your calls have stopped..
And you have taken a flight out..
Kashmir now lives in your autumnal letters
Letters written in Blue.
About a paradise,
Where "Red Alerts" color the evenings
And White Noise the Nights.
Speak to me of Us,
There was so much Love
Every night for 6 minutes.
Give some to Kashmir.
Give some to Kashmir.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bhutan Chronicle No 3

These scissor winds that blow here
And the chimney winds from a farmer's hut,
All speak of you..
How you craved to be written about
Like a child in a market place
Begging for a new toy..
So let me put you on the dissection table
Let my words be ether
And my scalpel-pen carve you..
Your eyes,
Your lip,
Your hair..
Little by little....Everything..
For a new batch of wood-carvers
Or hand-loom makers,
Who seek to put you in dye,
So you never die, my love,
Only DEATH does.

Bhutan Chronicle No 2

This tiny town of Jaigaon
Is where two countries,

Bhutan and India meet.

Buddha owns the monopoly over the first two
He sells himself in the market place
100 faces masking each other,
Angry, cold, diabolical.
And the monarch presides over the cash counter
And India smiles like a truant boy,
Creeping into you..Seeping into your blood
Like new Found love
Or the first addiction of adolescence.
In a gambling joint,
India plays his cards.
A Kali temple down the road,
A missionary school shining every morning,
Street vendors fluent in foreign policies
Where currencies of a monarchy and a democracy
Are in currency.
Oh! this anarchy on common sense.
Politics, nation, borders, "Mazhab"
The early morning Azaan
Lifts the shrouds of this mountain town
India walks out of the casino
Arrogance of a young gambler
HE has played some of his cards
HE has hid some of them...

Bhutan Chronicle No. 1.

When two hearts sleep in different rooms
Asleep yet awake,
Like hamlet lights on a distant mountain.
Burning yet cold,
Like stars from a different time. the silence of an angry mob
Beating, like the constant rattle and hum
Of flags waving by roadside monasteries..
When two hearts sleep in different rooms....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


So hear me write a letter to you
The struggle of spoken words, broken words
Replaced by the symphony of pen on paper
Words are Niagara, Victoria, Mt. Kilimanjaro
This letter its mist, rush and Snow

Words etched in twilight coffee
Words burnt in mid-noon sun
Words strummed along with Baez
Words hummed with angry Dylan.

Words winked at your friend’s dimples
Words hung up on late night calls
Words walking down zebra crossings
Oscillating between your rise and fall

Words that adorn your bare back
Ones that caress your black-brown hair
Words to sooth, hurt, kill and conceal
Words drowned out in Vanity Fair.

Words waved from airport lounges
Words smeared on train windows
Unspoken sorrys and never made calls
Words you’d hide saying “ HE KNOWS”

Words lost in midnight madness
Words wedged between lovers’ rift,
Sheets of blue ink inside your soul
A letter, a song, a parting gift.
Hear me write this letter to you.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I see twenty two faces before me,
Maybe nervous, Maybe calm, Maybe resigned
Stung bee lips of one.
And coal mine fingers and palms.
Calculating, Calculative
Red fingernails on Calculator buttons.
The kissing and hissing of pen and paper.
They whisper like lovers
Little lip movements
And sign language,
All jumble up before me.
One of the girls is called Bobby
She smiles every time I call out her name.
Maybe she thinks I fancy her!
The others frown at the answer sheet
Creeping, crawling
Three hours towards freedom.
And I, their prison guard
The most fettered of them all.
I'm the vending machine
On foot and mouth
" Does anyone need extra sheets this side?"
What a dolt!
They need answers, Release.
Or maybe a moment or two alone
With new found Emergency Services by their side.
In the Battlefield
And the examination hall
Any alliance is welcome.
It's their Auschwitz.
Instead of poisoned gas
Through overhead showers
The city heat slithers in their skin.
And instead of Wagner,
I have the Lansdowne traffic
Drowning out voices in the head.
I feel three inches shorter,
And my English has a German ring to it.
Maybe they want my head.
I see Tagore looking down upon me.
That deliberate, sombre Mount Everest look
Behind which lies the inscrutable Indian.
He never appeared for a three hour paper?
In the heat, Dust, Petrol Fumes, did he?
The horn honking, Ambulance screaming,
Urinal smelling crossroads of the city.
Does he have a poem on invigilation???

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Journey

It is at times amazing to think what a train journey can do to you. Here you are, with a hundred others, all jostling for the precious 30 minute comfort to their work place, staring out of the train window to a rare treat of countryside greenery, and contemplating the day of insults, barbs and wires and tired homecoming that lies ahead. The world rushes past you like a comet on steroid, and snippets from sepiated lives and separated lives leave their footprints on the muddy by-lanes of your heart. So there you have, naked children fighting or playing along the train tracks, poor husbands squatting and puffing their uneventful lives away, and poorer wives washing clothes stained with oil and poverty.
    And all you do is register them, capture those moments, like the glimpse of the of the first fairy you met in senior school- to whom you never spoke and whom you never forgot. You want to create this free flowing narrative out of life that's whizzing past you, a narrative that would be cathartic before the tragedy that gets played out everyday. After all, you have so much suffering in front of you, in the slums and shacks, the perfect material for a write- up, one man's misery is another man's poetry.
    And right at that moment, you see yourself on the verandah of a green and gold building. Clad in a greyish T and shorts, you see a mirror in a 13 year old boy waving calmly to the train passing by. It is not a frantic wave, not one to draw attention, or a war cry to everyone occupying the window seat, to get noticed. It is a Morse Code to himself, a calm resignation, a sea Captain's assurance to his storm ravaged ship- that "I" exist. He'll be there when the next train passes by, and then the next, and then the next....Every wave, gesture and smile a testimony to the thousands beside the windows that he is "there". A slap on the face of his classmates for the  alienation he faces in school; a silent retort to the huge groups he cannot belong to. It is the corridor to the world where he is the King, the Knight, the Day and the Rain. Where he will save princesses and breathe fire, where dragons are toothless and witches powerless. It is that 7 seconds of fame that we all crave for- in the congratulations of teachers and a  sudden smile of recognition of the woman we are wooing.
      And yet, maybe that kid is nit alone in his solitude. Loneliness is the worst species of termites, devouring the soul and gnawing away at the heart. What could be more tragic than a young heart ostracized inside the classroom, and an outcast in the neighbourhood. What could be more painful than the realization that you are mocked because you speak not in your mother tongue, but in a language they will pay to learn later. it is then you escape to a world of words, your words, others' words, words as swords, words as oxygen cylinders- Madonna's words, Dicken's words, words which whisper, words which wail. The world you inhabit is where women smell of new books, where MTV International and VH1 are church songs and where GOD Moonwalks to HISTORY. News paper clippings, Hollywoood trailers are your friends, and you unburden the secret of the new girl in the school bus in the last page of the maths exercise book.
    You look at the young kid and all these images flash-flood into your mind. Its like arranging a nightmare in a sequence, so that you don't miss any details while recounting it to your beloved, an effort to remember things you wanted to forget once. By the time, all visions, revisions slither away inside the snake pit of the subconscious, the sight of the 13 year old "new" you has also gone by. And all that remains, is the sound of the fleeing train between two stations.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Bookshop Girl

The city was in a savage rush
Like a horse on high steroid,
Nero's Rome and Hitler's Paris
Both Burning Asteroids. 

They tore and stretched and then they pulled
The fabric of civil Rights
And in the By-lanes a bookshop glowed
Bathed by an Angel's Light.

The  tenderness of her silky voice
Drowned anarchy's din,
Her shampooed hair and her fragrant scarf
Out-smelled burning skins.

Who was she i had to know
Her color, her God and her name
Was she a Jew from Nuremberg
Or maybe Mussolini's Dame. 

Was she the minister's daughter
Weaving stories at night to survive
Was she history's Anne Frank
Who did make it out alive.

She smiled and spoke and Whispered on
Slaying me with her touch
Holding her gaze and my breath
I winked at the church.

Gushing and hushing she led me in,
Walking out the door,
The shards of longing pricked me red,
My heartbreak tale of gore.

I ran, I ran, A riot within
An old Odyssey and enemies new,
A "jihad", a "haj" to win her back
As I saw her in the queue.

Her nod was invitation sweet
She swayed and looked my way
Crunching the iceberg and swallowing the tempest,
I smiled and walked away. 

Why didn't i speak to her
Who uprooted me from my roots
What if she weren't Scheherazade
But Cinderella without her boots.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bad Dream

My morning sleep was abused by a long forgotten dream. The same fear, the sound of anxiety creeping up on me and the threat of it coming true. Like specters from my past, like a once written letter which never found its way to the postman. Waking up feels like the aftermath of having been administered medication when a child-- that time when every pill was bitter to swallow. Or the hangover of the first romantic crusade of youth- heartbreak circus and guerrilla warfare outside her school...Dreams like these are terrible for the soul. In the glass arteries of the heart, where mercury flows, where the Muse of Venus treads on marble floored shopping malls, the soul emerges scarred, marred and charred.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Don't be too worried about my name tonight.. 
I am Zafar, 
And also the victory song...
I am a poor miner's serial number, 
And the SORRY that goes wrong...
I am your favorite heartbreak, 
White flag on a weathered mast.
I am your unlit cigarettes, 
And the postcard from your past.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Andre Villas Boas...AT 34, You dared to take up the hottest managerial post in Europe..your ambition, drive, and nonchalance on the face of searing criticism, a flurry of defeats and a mercurial owner won my heart..your helplessness, continuous pacing and whistling at the touchline and the exultation and relief after rare victories would be images that i would carry with me for a long were the modern day Icarus, only i hoped you would not crash and burn..May you find greener pastures, and with a team that matches your talent, script a comeback that's the stuff of fairy-tales...i hope you are my Rocky, my Cinderella Man, riding the chariot of fire escaping to your symphony with a red guitar on fire...i will wait....

Sunday, March 4, 2012


They said you were seeing someone new
New flashlights, new Starlight
New fabrics on skin.
Old colonial sidewalks resounded with
A new pair of laughter.
Coffee light dusks and Cineplex afternoons.
Meetings, precious like
Grandparents’ anniversary photos.
And then the cobra pangs of jealousy
Hit me, Bit me.
Sunset horizon was green
And Sunrise dipped in chlorophyll.
They said you were unsure,
You’d walk a million mile more
To hold his hand.
And a few silent steps.
To trample on my heart.
The last twist of the dagger
And the green eyed adder.
A space shuttle is what I need,
To fly away, to places where
Roses are still red,
And your signature still the same.
The rhyme, the rhythms are all green tonight
For Iago is my name.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Iceberg Lipgloss

A floating iceberg you are tonight
In the backseat we were continents apart
Your straightened hair mocked the wind
We sat crumpled, un-ironed for months
Bruised souls and tattooed skin
Pierced nose, a bleeding heart
Angry words like poisoned darts.
Teasing, pleasing...Lip-gloss on collars
And our black and white nights
Shine in the forgotten albums of the city.
Operas run in empty theatres
The poet has too many visitors
Life is like Chaplin's movie tonight
Your eyes the log book
Of a storm driven cruise liner.
Iceberg heart light me up tonight
Make the Backseat inches shorter,
And your bus stop a million miles away.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Angel of the Third World

How are you today,
My angel of the Third World?
Has your school boy hair grown to rush
Like the Black Niagara your husband loves?
Do you still wear that fruity fragrance
The only thing I could bare sticking to your skin?
Do you seek me in the books I gifted?
Or do i reside in the forgotten
Whore houses of your memory?
Your nightly rituals of Love
Are colder than the winters we haven't met.
You looked wonderful in the veil
The last time i saw you
Majestic caged tiger.
A third world angel,
Unemployed in God's infirmary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inside Your Clothes

I want to be inside your clothes tonight
Drop dead like the apple on Newton's head
Pull me down into you,
Away from the overtime shifts
Working in God's toilet.
Hold me like gravity
And hit me like a cyclone meeting a city
Dreaming of a revolution sunrise.
Take away those empty promises,
The Presidential campaign vows
And those cheerleader Wow's.
Protect me tonight,
The Baywatch guards watched me drown last year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Nights outside fenced houses
Refugees in foreign shores
Haggling for food, and for who we are.
Stars they seem alien tonight
The owl cries in a human voice
"Land mines", "Border lines", "My Lands".
As springs are gunned down
In forest highlands
As we count the dimes
For a pocketful of sky.
I was born with lines on my palm
I'll die with Borders in my heart.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Man Who Controls the Mood of the Nation

The past few weeks have been abuzz with the hype surrounding Sachin's century of centuries and the entire cricketing world seems to be obsessed with it. The generally hostile Australian media is showering praises upon the little master, the rowdy, ruthless crowd gives a standing ovation to him every time he walks out to bat, twitter is tweeting, and every cricket expert worth his salt seems to deliberate upon what might be wrong about the great man. Let's not get into statistics here. And neither speculate about when he might get the elusive 100. It will come...But what has already arrived is something more special. This note is about that.
   People living in different time-zones are all up and ready watching Sachin bat. Morning has come early, work can wait. Classes can be sacrificed, meetings can be postponed. Not merely because we are waiting for him to score an academic century. But to appreciate the way he is going about his job. His batsmanship in the Australian series has been almost surreal. Yes, he has shown signs that he is human, going into his shell, and then hesitant at times. And yet, when he has gone about his job, he has made it look effortless. The cricketing arena is the only place where Sachin can be himself. Be free of the pressure, of the craving and the divine worship. He is the slave, carving out his invocation to the Cricketing Gods. And the Gods have been kind to him, and to us.
     Throughout his career, Sachin has been plagued by the debate and the comparison between him and Brian Lara. Lara, to me, is almost the last remnant of the West Indian era gone by, almost a Viv Richards born a millionaire. That arrogance of youth, the nonchalance of too much money. It showed in his cuts and pulls, his frequent disagreements with the Cricket board. Sachin is the Working man industry, a reverent priest dedicating his entire life to the service of the great game. And the Gods have been kind to him, and to us.
      The reason why people of my generation owe a part of our lives and growing up to him is subtly more significant that all the records he has created and destroyed. But because he represents something of the way India has come up, something of the manner in which people growing up in the 90's found their feet. Here was someone, who could go all out, keeping the field restrictions and the then 15 over rule. Today's youngsters who cry and crave for the hitting skills of Dhoni and Warner have missed the look of terror on the faces of bowlers marking their run-up, walking up to Sachin. Careers have come to an end, Captains have resigned. And here we have cheered, because someone broke the shackles of a timidly glowing self-belief and stamped his authority on the world. Gone were the days of Gavaskar, grafting out a century. Here was Sachin, smashing his way to making a statement. We went to work with our head held sky- high, exam fever was faced with the belief, that if Sachin could tackle Perth, Auckland, then so could we, calculus and the rubbing down of our bosses. The morning after a Sachin century, the sun was brighter, newspapers came up with epic headlines, classrooms were fish-markets, and people fought less inside public buses during office hours..His fall was our fall..when he raised his arms and opened his helmet, he was a warrior, fighting a war for us. An injustice against him was an injustice against the whole race.
     Oh Sachin, you have made us weep tears of Joy. You made us discover new superstitions, made us choose you over our wives and girlfriends and made us come up with new excuses for playing truant. You have made ardent cricket admirers of grandmothers, made the whole of India pray in unison. India lacks an emblem which brings the country together, even VANDE MATARAM seems to be politically loaded and communally sensitive. Not you...You have been our national anthem. Our national symbol. Our adrenaline. Make us wake up early mornings. Make us sleep late at nights...100 is just another number...