Radio waves dance between
sleep and the half light
of dawn. Yawning, Ma adjusts the
knob to wake up the station. The man
on the radio invokes the Mother in
gravelly chants. Malkauns,
waiting in the wings,
takes the stage. The beginning
Far away, in another lifetime,
a temple bell rang. The devotee,
crazy for a single glimpse of the
lord, cried his heart out. “Don’t
shatter my hopes; leave me not.”
The dark-skinned god stood still.
Wobbling across decades
of palsy, an old man’s feet
breathed life into its
Malkauns moves mountains. Cripples.
Stony gods. An adored mother goddess
and her carousel of
children. It moves sleepy heads
into a dozy trance. Malkauns
moves dark nights of the soul
into mornings that must
It comes with autumn’s
surreptitious footfall. Each
Alaap a waft of incense
Smoke, rarely a thunderstorm.
The oxygen of light
Slowly dissolves. With It,
the room. Yaman, like its
teevra Madhyam, persists,
cementing itself in wall
Hours deepen. The
sun’s diurnal imperiousness
becomes a laughable hoax.
Vision loses its clues. The
world is lost, an illusion
one had given in to. Bypassing
The eye’s stubborn pathways,
Yaman rows the ears and flows
Right into the heretic heart.
Morningness bathes you. Grandfather’s Arms rise skywards. The newspaper-man hurls elastic-clasped, rolled-up headlines into the porch. Mother lights the stove to wake up milk.
Ahir Bhairav takes you to a place so empty, it’s full. The absolute centre of nothingness. The beginning of all beginnings. A lighthole.
In a slowly-igniting corner of your mind, your guru’s saintly beard unspools. You can hear him talking about the sadhu who devoted his life to the service of Bhairav, the primordial sound. Your guru’s smile is a cryptic message now.
Vilayat and Imrat lead you with strings. Unscratched morning flows into a cowshed. The uniraga sadhu still befuddles, but with Ahir Bhairav, you partake in a fraction of his madness, his self-absorbed samadhi in the lighthole.
The school girl dreams. One day she’ll tune her voice to the throat of the songbird whose call mocks the cage of age.
FISH OUT OF WATER
Water was the first traitor she came To know. It didn’t drown her. Seasoned traitors seldom do that. She was the river’s sibling-child, knew its mood swings, joaar and bhata like she did her night terrors, throat-clasping. Easy to forget once the grip loosened.
When father spread his net over its body, the river heaved through the mesh, packing fish into its giant mouth. She should have known then What it is to be thrown onto dry Ground. Gasp. Wriggle. Writhe. Succumb. Forget that water ever nestled your breath.
The river’s betrayal came not in abandoning her. It did when it became a concrete mesh, And she, a fish in the city’s sewage tank.
A long-dead poet brings home truths to the work desk. Mid-day ennui seeks lunch break and a walk in the park. Between flesh and flight, the girl chooses to ride the breeze Like kebab smoke trailing the gallies of purani Delhi. Careless, footloose. Another dead poet dreams of a new day on earth, a more womanly day. Old wounds find new ways of festering. Congealed blood rejects washing. Rain harnesses in megapixels tears that no longer wet hearts.