Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Look! I Have an Admirer !

A feeble...err...'fable' attempt. Written extempore on a topic given by a friend!

Once upon a time
Beyond the world of human clime
Curtained by the seven seas
Was a squirrel kingdom - Sunshine

True to its bright and lovely name
It had a beautiful, picturesque frame
A dainty rivulet with a wooden a bridge
Ran across the heart of its ridge

The morning and the sunset
Would brighten up its sky
Flowers in rainbow hues blossomed
Birds sang on trees, perched high

The scenic beauty, the lovely clime
A bitter truth did conceal
One fateful day, a sage's rage
Had turned its people squirrels

The princess too was not spared
Though, a beautiful squirrel she became
Like the Naiad of the winding brook
Juna was her name

Her golden stripes and dainty tail
Drew many a jealous stare
She had fair and handsome suitors
And, quite a number there!

One fateful day when the air was good
The princess went for a walk
Watched by the meandering brook,
The green woods and the lark

Then came the momentous time
Which changed her life forever
A prince on a white steed came by
Like a knight in shining armour!

His gaze on the golden Juna fell
And the Cupid struck his dart
He followed her with all the caution
His eyes didn't let her part

Heavens! Did he just hear her sing?
Or, had his thought taken a wing?
Of all the wonders of the mortal world
Lord! How could a squirrel sing?

He called out to her in a baritone
To his wonder, she stopped
With measured steps, sophisticated gait
She came near him and talked

They talked from morn till night
And talked on topics galore
Weather, literature, history, philosophy
They talked on even more...

For several virtues, beings I admired
Never any so full and whole
O you so perfect, so peerless created
Said the prince with a sincere soul

Juna wasn't amused at all
She thought, it was a jibe
"Look! I have an admirer!", she retorted
These words, her pain couldn't hide

Crack! the magic words were spoken
The sage's curse did break
The squirrel turned into a beautiful princess
True love was put at stake!

It so turned that the handsome prince
Was also cursed in a duel
The dying opponent with a wounded heart
Cursed, the prince would love a squirrel!

The curse had an antidote
No less the task of a warrior
Else, how could a squirrel say,
"Look! I have an admirer"?

Both curses had the same antidote
As their fate had destined
To test true love's magical power, and
The strength of the heart it reigned

The prince loved Juna for who she was
For him nothing else did matter
The squirrel kingdom metamorphosed
And, they lived happily ever after...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

दादी माँ

I was in Delhi for my graduate studies when Dadi Maa left us for her heavenly abode. Papa told me that the last words she spoke were: "Laagat hai Anu aai gai" (I feel Anu is here). I wish I was there when she breathed her last. This poem is for my Dadi Maa.

दादी माँ की
हथपोई रोटियों का
जवाब नही था

आँगन के चूल्हे में सिकीं
गरम-गरम हथपोइयों के कौर
हमारे मुहँ में ऐसे पिघलते
जैसे कंडी की धीमी आँच पर
घंटों तक सींझे, लाल दूध से बने
घी और मक्खन की महकती बूंदें

गर्मी की छुट्टी में
जब हम गांव जाते
तो आंखें सबसे पहले
दादी माँ को ढूंढ़तीं
दलान से लगे किंवाड़
से झाँक कर देखते
तो दादी माँ
अपनी सूती धोती पहने
या तो दही मथ रही होतीं
या फिर
आँगन में छन कर आई धूप में
खटाई डाल रही होतीं
हम जोर से चिल्लाते -
"दादी माँ, दादी माँ"
दादी माँ की आंखें चमक उठतीं
और हमेशा की तरह हँस कर कहतीं -
"लागत है अनु आइ गै"

फिर तो गर्मी की छुट्टी खूब मज़े से कटती
चाहे खरही पर चढ़ कर
कलमी पेड़ से आम तोड़ने की सनक हो
या भरी दोपहरी में छिछला खाने की ललक
चाहे गेहूं की देहरी में आम छिपाने की कोशिश
या फिर हथपोई पर सबसे ज़्यादा घी डलवाने की होड़
दादी माँ हर बार हमें बड़ों की डांट से बचातीं

हम बड़े हो गए
पढ़ने के लिए और दूर चले गए
धीरे-धीरे गांव छूट गया

सालों बाद फिर गांव जाना हुआ
खरही के पास वाला पेड़ अब नही था
घर की देहरी बँट गई थी
मिट्टी का चूल्हा तोड़ कर
छुटके बाबू और बड़के चाचा ने
गैस- सिलेंडर लगा लिया था

दलान के किंवाड़ से
अन्दर झांकने की हिम्मत न हुई
दादी माँ की यादों से भरा
वह आँगन अब सूना था...

Thursday, September 30, 2010


क्यों गर्मी की छुट्टी
को अब न होती बेचैन
मासूम शैतानियाँ और
खिलौने वाली ट्रेन ?

न होती बारिश के खड्डों में
छोटे पैरों की छप-छप
न स्कूल बस की सीट
सुनती घंटों वो गप-शप

न गली का चूरन
न पोपिन्स की गोली
अब न मैगी की ज़िद
और न शक्कर की चोरी

न पकड़म- पकड़ाई
करती घंटों का खेल
न छिपन-छिपाई का
अब होता है मेल

न दिखते पहाड़े में
परियों के पर
न कागज की नाव
न मोगली का घर

न झूठ-मूठ के गुस्से पे
अब माँ का मनाना
न मीठी सी धुन में
वो लोरी सुनाना

पोटली बाबा के किस्सों
को लेकर अपने संग
बादल के उस पार
क्यों लौट गया बचपन?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Their Temple, Their Mosque

Today, the customary call from my mom ends with an uncustomary word of caution, ‘be careful and avoid going out between the 24th and the 26th of this month’. I have asked her to do the same. My parents stay in Faizabad. I stay in Mumbai. To the uninformed, September 24, 2010, is the day when the Allahabad high court’s Lucknow bench announces its verdict on the 60 year old case on the disputed site in Ayodhya. To the informed, the connection is evident.

As a student of literature, I have learnt that a comparative study of the private and the public history of a particular event is an interesting exercise in demystification of that event’s absolute truth. Often, there is a conflict between the personal and the public memory of the same event. Fact is permeated by the shadow lines of subjectivity and fiction.

My mom’s call makes me put this theory to test. I decide to have a chat with my nation. Have a look.

NATION: In 1949, idols of Ram, Laxman and Sita mysteriously appear inside the Babri mosque, Ayodhya.
ME: Is it? Do the idols appear as ‘mysteriously’ as the English disappear from our country?

I am hysterical with laughter.

NATION: What? What is so funny?
ME: Nothing. ‘Mysteriously’ has become my favourite word. It gets me cracking!
NATION: In 1950, Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das starts the litigation process.
ME: But, our Constitution is just born! The Mahant should have been sued for child labour. Err... in the English court!

Nation is appalled at my audacity.

ME: (With a great sense of achievement). In 1985, I am born!
NATION: (Sarcastically). And, you are not the Constitution.
ME: But, I take birth in the military hospital, Faizabad – Ayodhya’s twin sister!
NATION: Whatever! (Thinks for a while). On December 6, 1992, Babri Masjid is demolished.
ME: A seven-year old me studies at the Central school, Air Force Cant, Agra.
ME: So, nothing! The seven-year old me and my friend Sana wonder what Babri Masjid is and why you seem so worked up!
Anyway, in 1994, my father takes voluntary retirement from the Indian Air Force and re-locates in Faizabad. I join J.B. Academy as a grade four student.

Nation Ignores me, and is busy looking into the security arrangements for the 24th. I continue.

In March-April, 2002, there is an influx of karsevaks in my city. The city is barricaded. So, our home exams are postponed. We are thrilled!
NATION: You are thrilled!

Nation is horrified.

ME: Of course! Your history is easy to study, Chemistry isn’t. I get more time to prepare. (Grinning now). But, won’t you conduct a research on the percentage of thrilled Muslim students?
NATION: (Furiously). Is it a joke for you? I have just witnessed one of the worst riots in my history, the Godhara carnage!
ME: (Quietly). And, you let it happen…

Our dialogue ends here.

I know the idols should not have ‘mysteriously appeared’ in 1949. I know that December 6, 1992 should not have happened. But, we have had opportunities to redeem ourselves 1992 onwards. We can not forgive ourselves for Godhara. Because, the seven year old Sana does not know what ‘Babri Masjid’ is. Because, while the ‘child’ me rejoices at the postponed exams, she is also irritated with the karsevaks for usurping her city to build a temple. She does not want them. She does not want their temple. Her Ram resides in her home, her heart; just as Sana’s Allah resides in hers. Because, when Sana is told :"Zarre- zarre mein uska noor hai/ Jhaank khud mein na wo tujhse door hai/ Ismein usmein aur usmein hai wo hi/ yaar mera har taraf bharpoor hai "; I am told the same:"Ram to ghar-ghar mein hain/ Ram har aangan mein hain/ Mann se Raavan jo nikale/ Ram uske mann mein hain."

The city of my birth, and the city which I now call home are being ‘prepared’ for the 24th. The rest of the ‘sensitive’ pockets elsewhere in the country too, are being put on alert. What kind of justice is going to be meted out on the 24th? A justice that puts the entire nation under scare! A justice that robs our freedom to move! A justice that puts our fundamental right to live, under probable threat! Hitherto, proud of their inter-faith heritage, socio-cultural harmony and long syncretic tradition, the twin-cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad are going to be marked forever by a justice that has long lost its power to be just.

Whatever the verdict is on the 24th, I don’t care. Neither does Sana. Nor do the twin-cities. I hope we have company.

Mandir to ban jaayega
Par Ram kahan se laaoge?
Uss masjid ki deewaron ko
Kya pak kabhi kar paaoge?
Jis chaukhat par log jale
Ram wahan na jaayenge
Jin galiyaron mein khoon gira
Maula kya reh paayenge?

Friday, September 17, 2010

दीप तुम बुझो

जलते रहो,
सब कहते हैं?

मैं कहती हूँ
मेरे दीप
तुम जलो
तुम बुझो

हाँ, डरती हूँ
जब तुम बुझते हो
किन्तु, हर बार
पहले से कम

हाँ, गिरती हूँ
जब तुम बुझते हो
फिर, उठती हूँ
और ऊपर

लगता है
जब तुम बुझते हो
जो माना था
अब जान लिया

जगता है
जब तुम बुझते हो
खोने-पाने का
अविरल अहसास

दीप, क्या दीप
अदीप के बिना?

मैं -
जो तुमसे हूँ
इसलिए, मेरे दीप
तुम बुझो

मेरे दीप
फिर जलो...

Sunday, September 5, 2010


हमचेहरों के दरमियां
रोज़ कुछ नये
हमचेहरे दिखते
लम्बे फुटपाथ के किनारे
रीअर-व्यू मिरर में हमारे
रेल्वे-स्टेशन की दीवार के सहारे

हलक पर रोज़ कुछ आवाज़ें टूटीं
एक शोर हुआ, और हुआ भी नही...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


It is amazing how the same thought finds myriad ways of expression through different forms of art.

I am not a painter. I know. But, colours have been generous to me this season.

It was a rainy Thursday. This time the words spoke. It was nice to see their playful mood. The chalky-white space had been their home for a few months now. They said they were bored and needed some colour. I was happy to help. Some colours, a paint brush, and a 'spray-yourself', was all they needed. What happened was - diffusion !

She sees him touching her breath
She breathes that touch in, and
With it, all that is him -
Deep within distance diffuses

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Colours have a way around me. They tempt me as much as words do.

Some oil-pastels bought almost two years ago re-surfaced one day. The Greens smiled and spoke to me first. Then, they introduced me to the Browns and the Yellows. Together, we struck up a Conversation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

बात ही तो थी, फिर आएगी...

सपनों को डोर दी तो
आसमान में उड़ने लगे
यूं लहराते, यूं गोते खाते
कि बस पूछो मत
फिर क्या
देखते ही देखते
कल, ढंग बदला
आज रंग

बात कुछ ऐसी हुई -
एक आसमानी सपने ने
रंग नया कुछ यूं चुराया
कि देखो तो
आँखें चुन्धियाँ जाएँ
ललचाने वाला -
आजकल के फैशन-परस्त
नाखूनों सा सुर्ख लाल

"नई सेटिंग है...नये किरदार
मैनें सोचा, मैं भी...हें हें हें..."
कह कर
उस लाल सपने ने
अपनी खीसें निपोर दीं
"पर मैं..."
झेंप कर मैं आगे
कुछ कह न सकी

हंसने से बल पड़ी
भौहें सिकोड़ते हुए
सपना बोला:
"मैं कई हूँ, फिर भी वही हूँ
तुम वही हो, दिन-दिन नयी हो
लो, थोड़ा लाल रंग
उधार ले लो
वापस न कर पाओगी
मालूम है, इसलिए
एक शर्त -
जो रंग दूँ, पहन लो"

"भई यह क्या बात हुई?
कुछ और रंगों में रंगी
उन बातों का
क्या करूँ?"
थोड़ा झुन्झला कर मैंने कहा
आगे बढ़ने को हुई

सपने ने
ज़ोर का एक
ठहाका लगाया
"बात ही तो है, चुक जाएगी"
कुछ सोच कर कहने लगा :
"बात ही तो थी, फिर आएगी..."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

फ़िर वही आज

भोर की मद्धिम किरण
छेड़ कर फ़िर तार-सप्तक
देखती है
पहाड़ी पर बसे गाँव से
उठते धुंए के लच्छे
रंग रहे
कोहरे की वह महीन चादर

पक्की सड़क से
अब मिली, अब बिछड़ी
टेढ़ी-मेढ़ी पगडंडियों पर
चल रहे
रात के सन्नाटे में
मिटे वह निशान -
चरवाहे निकल पड़े हैं फ़िर
उन्हीं गीतों के साथ

मन्दिर के द्वार पर
लगने लगी है
उन्हीं दुआओं में चुपड़े
चढ़ावों की होड़
भीगने लगी हैं फ़िर
हरसिंगार के फूलों से बिछीं
घाट पर उतरती
नारंगी-सफेद सीढ़ियाँ

जा रहा है 'आज'
फ़िर उस पार
कितनी नावों में कितनी बार

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Something there is that doesn't love a wall - Robert Frost

One day, while stepping out in the afternoon sun, my gaze falls on the garden ivy in my landlord's house. I see it arduously making its way through the slit in the dividing wall to reach the neighbour's side. I am reminded of a conversation that happens a few days ago: "We need to mend the wall", says the neighbour to my landlord.

Suddenly, flashes of another incident from the past come to fore. I go down the memory lane to see a guava tree being chopped down. I go back further. It is my naniji's courtyard. The guava tree grows in the neighbour's house, but most of its branches lean towards ours, crossing the un-cemented little wall of loose bricks that separates the two houses. Every year the rows of loose bricks on the wall increase. Every year the tree, unmindful of the increasing division, bears and shares its fruit. This season, the tree looks more generous than ever. We are euphoric as we look at the countless fragrant spheres dangling from the tree - luscious and inviting - in colours of green and golden yellow.

As the initial excitement settles down, I gradually register some conversation filtering in. I hear naniji's neighbour planning to pick all the guavas from the tree and distribute it among the neighbours. I am confused. I don't like being confused, so I am unhappy. I do not want to eat so many guavas at one go. I do not want them to be given to me. I want to climb the tree to pick them. I want to beat the branches with a stick and catch the guavas before they hit the ground. There is no fun in eating a guava, all on your own. Why don't these grown-ups understand? I try to concentrate on what the neighbour says. They want to increase the height of the dividing wall. They want to cement the loose bricks. Even as a child I know what it means. Filled with a deep sense of foreboding, my eyes well up.

My beloved guava tree is gone. There is a high wall in its place today. The courtyard is empty except for a nostalgic shadow.

Last month, I happen to meet two friends from school after seven long years. I realize, as do they, that we have changed - for each other and within us. We have changed in the way that distance changes us; in the way that time offers replacements. We know that we have not kept in touch. We know that each shall blame the other. Yet, we know that silently each feels guilty about blaming the other. Understandably, there is an initial awkwardness due to the physical and the emotional barrier that has crept in. A mysterious and invisible wall has come up. But soon enough we drown years of separation in the lemon flavoured ice-tea. The ice melts, the barrier breaks. So does the misunderstanding that has accumulated over the years. grudge and complaint. In our giggles, we hear once again, the three best friends who sit eating lunch on the first bench, while our History teacher discusses the first World War.

Time comes. We bid adieu over promises of staying in touch.

We have accepted the replacements that time has given us. Still, in these two-hours of re-lived memories – of the extended sessions of curfew phone calls, of the concomitant mischief, of the first rushes of teenage love, of the silly insecurities, of the shed tears, of the reassuring words, of the knowing smiles, of the shared laughter – we are irreplaceable for each other.

I remember reading Robert Frost’s, ‘Mending Wall’, in standard X. Frost’s context is universal. It is as human, as it is socio-political. We set this wall between us: A wall, which is much more vicious than that of concrete – of assumption, competition, ego, insecurity, intolerance, judgement, misunderstanding and perception. As I think of my naniji’s neighbour, of my landlord and his neighbour, of my friends and me, I can not help but laugh at our hypocrisy. We speak vehemently against division in society. Yet, we erect this unspoken and treacherous wall in our everyday lives and relationships. What is it that we are trying to ‘wall-in’ and ‘wall-out’? I wonder!

There are things that do not love a wall. They are shared times, shared spaces, and shared memories. Sharing is such a beautiful thing.

I look at the garden ivy in my present. I climb the guava tree of my past. And, they smile.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

आज फ़िर
मसाला चाय पीते वक़्त
तुम्हारी ख़ुशबू आई
याद है
उस दिन कैसे
अपने होंठ जला लिए थे तुमने
खिलखिला कर हंस पड़ी थी मैं
तुमसे कह न सकी
तुम्हारी उस मासूमियत से
मन ही मन
प्यार कर बैठी हूँ मैं

नज़रें बचा कर
मुझे एक टक देखते हो
जानते हो न
मुझे सब पता है
फिर भी
पकड़े जाने पर
क्या खूब
अनजान बनते हो
जान कर अनजान बनने की
तुम्हारी हर उस कोशिश से
प्यार कर बैठी हूँ मैं

इस तरह, फ़िर उस तरह
कभी उस तरह
एक ही सवाल करते हो
शरारत-भरी, तुम्हारी मुस्कराहट
मैं खूब समझती हूँ
लेकिन क्या करूँ
फ़िर उस सवाल के
बदमाश हर नए अंदाज़ से
प्यार कर बैठी हूँ मैं

ऐसी कितनी ही बातें हैं
चुपके से
दिख जाते हो
तुम जिनमें
वैसे, जैसे हो
ऐसी हर बात से
प्यार कर बैठी हूँ मैं
तुमसे प्यार कर बैठी हूँ मैं

Sunday, February 28, 2010

अबकी होली चलो एक नया रंग बनायें
केसरिया को थोड़ा हरा रंग लगायें
मीठी गुझियों के संग कुछ सेवैयाँ परोसें
जमातों में फ़िर अपनी टोली बनायें
ऐसी पिचकारियाँ सरहदें जो समेटे
ऐसे फगवा के सुर जो सभी को मिलायें
बहुत जल चुकी सरज़मीं की लकीरें
अबकी होली चलो सारी नफ़रत जलायें
ज़ख्मी होकर बुझीं जो उम्मीदें कभी
चलो इश्क़ का उनपे मलहम लगायें
अबकी होली चलो फ़िर उम्मीदें जगाएं
अबकी होली चलो एक नया रंग बनायें...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paradise Regained!

Here is what happens when you (to be fair, 'you' needs to be qualified, but the information has been withheld for some specific professional reasons, and left for the reader to interpret) cheat on your diet, and eat dal-chawal with dollops of ghee and aaloo-beans bhaji, followed by some heavenly halwa, the taste of which, you fear, you shall soon forget:

a) You are blessed by your perpetually starved gustatory cells, and on a micro level, by the mitochondria (Because I did not wish to be a doctor, they never believed me, but I did take my Biology lessons seriously).

b) You bless the cook and try to remember as many adjectives as you can, both for the cook and the cooked (cursing yourself, all the while, for not taking Norman Lewis seriously).

c) You are transported to the class of 2006, where Dr. Christel Devdawson is teaching Milton's Paradise Lost. In your hallucination, you begin to comprehend those lines: "[A plate of ghee-laden dal-chawal, aloo-beans bhaji and halwa in] its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heaven of Hell, [and, in absence of the subject under reference] a Hell of Heaven!"

d) You find it difficult to digest (no pun intended) that Literary Theory can have such a lucid explanation: Indeed, Heaven and Hell are a state of mind as governed by the accessibility, or the inaccessibility of the aforementioned 'plate'.

e) You become a pro at time-travel, traversing psychological and real/chronological time (If alive, Virgina Woolf would have been impressed).

f) In the psychological spacetime continuum you relish the joys of the 'sinful' Heaven (Shhh...that's a blasphemous oxymoron), and like Dr. Faustus, feel: "Am I not tormented with ten thousand hells/ In being deprived of [this]...bliss [everyday]?"

g) Your over-enthusiastic use of the oxy-MORON (your word-power becomes powerful when it shouldn't) results in your fall from 'Grace'. You are confronted by the 'real' time as you plead guilty of the 'sin of gluttony': "How am I glutted with the conceit of this...that I tasted the joys of heaven?"

h) 'Stream of Consciousness' makes complete sense to you. NOW!

i) "Damn! Where was this ingenuity during the exams?" You exclaim!


j) "To eat, or not to eat?" You realize, that is still 'the question' .

k) You ask yourself not to worry. You know that you are perfectly normal; You just happen to be a literature student grappling with a temporary existential angst.

Friday, February 5, 2010

एक काम करोगे?
अपने आँगन की
मुट्ठी धूप,
और उसमें खड़ा
वो जो
का पेड़ है ,
चुटकी छाया
इस बरस
सर्दी, गर्मी कट जायेगी...
तुम फ़िर डर गए|
बारिश के लिए कुछ नही चाहिए|
तब तक आदत पड़ जाए...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

एक 'कहानी' और मिली|
टूटी-फूटी, दरारों वाली,
पुरानी लाल ईंट की
सड़क के मोड़ पर|
"नयी नही है" -
किसी ब्लैक एंड व्हाईट फोटो से
अभी-अभी निकली
पोस्टमैन चाचा की
चूँ-चूँ करती साईकिल
के घिसे पहिये
हँसते हुए बोले...