THE CAT ON CHRISTMAS EVE
A few years ago, in a flat
full of your father’s Russian books,
I hung my coat upon a hook
on Christmas Eve to pet your cat.
“Pet my cat? That’s impossible!
She’s such a sour puss.”—I don’t know,
Rika liked me well enough. — “Sure!”
The wine stain proved un-washable
but I never managed to throw
away the shirt I wore that night.
“That’s what you get when you incite
an old Commie.”—Well, I didn’t know.
“So what was the debate about?
I can’t remember.”—Bakunin’s
fall out with Herzen. — “You couldn’t win
that debate. Did my uncle shout
at you?”—Oh no, it was the fish.
One look at it, and Rika leapt
out of my hands. And that upset
the glass. —“She went straight for the dish.”
A cat always knows what it wants,
but here is the book I borrowed.
Coast of Utopia. You swallowed:
“We think we’ll reach it but we can’t.”
19 December, 2014
These are winter colours: the red
of carrots; the beans, peas, broccoli;
cremini— “I can’t possible
reach work on time today,” I said.
“Pan-fried veggies, sausage pasta
whiskey toddy... What more do you
want?”— “I’ve to write a book review.”
There’s no time for Frank Sinatra
weeping ‘I’ll Never Be the Same’
for Ava Gardner. — “Can’t you call
and let them know?” You pull the shawl
around your hopeful shoulders: “Blame
it on me, say I was unwell.”
I smile (How can I not?): “There’s no
need to lie, I guess I can go
a little late.” You smile. The bell
announces your friend’s arrival.
I hear you two in the kitchen,
laughing. Even the vexed pigeon
on the window sill can’t rival
the domestic sounds, the kettle.
At my desk, I play ‘Black Coffee’.
Ah Fitzgerald! She pours in me
a laziness nothing can unsettle.
21 December, 2014
‘DELHI WILL DROWN IN ITS OWN WASTE’
After Frank O’Hara’s ‘Lana Turner Has Collapsed’
“US President Barack Obama could lose roughly 6 hours from his expected lifespan after spending three days in India’s capital inhaling the world’s most toxic air.”
—Bloomberg, January 26, 2015
Delhi will drown in its own waste!
The auto takes you in the smog—
a white darkness. A mangy dog
growls at me, fearing I’ll kidnap
itslitter. My woollen cap
hardly keeps my thoughts warm. A jog,
I think, will be good, and coffee:
to my bed, books in a jiffy.
But I spot it, despite my haste
DELHI WILL DROWN IN ITS OWN WASTE!
Such headlines are ubiquitous,
and the smog conspicuous;
Obama, they claim, lost six hours
of his life—this air devours
humanlungs. So what of us?
5 February, 2015
IFTAR ON LENIN SARANI
A tram cuts through the humid dusk,
like a prehistoric lizard, slouching,
sinister, looking out to gobble up
any careless bard.
Radios on TVs, laptops, gramophones—
all tumbling upwards, encroaching
the narrow footpath, buzzing,
alive, a haphazard,
Around here, the buses discard
automatons in a hurry,
but a pedestrian would be hard-pressed
to find a linear way,
or swiftly pass by, disregard,
skull-capped men sitting in circles,
breaking fast, with fries, fruit and curd.
MIZO DINER: A SONNET
Everyone’s been to the Mizo diner
but you. Not for the lack of trying though.
Remember how we took and auto
that May afternoon? “There isn’t a finer
joint in south Delhi.” But reaching, we found
shutters down, the owners away at church.
Another place then, after some research:
The pork wasn’t bad; the tingmo fresh, round.
Yet, as our auto was on Africa
Avenue, you told me of another.
There’s too much sand on Ring Road, silica,
enough urban construction to smother
the delicate architecture of our
afternoon—demolish for profit, devour.
1 August 2016
‘Iftar on Lenin Sarani’
Lenin Sarani:A crowded road in central Kolkata, the business district of the city. It is popular for its shops of electronics and a wholesale market.
Iftar:Thebreaking of fast by devout Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.
‘A Picture of You’
Shillong:The capital city of Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India’s troubled northeast. It is also known as the Rock capital because of the many bands that are based there. A hill station, it is famous for natural beauty of the surrounding areas.
Mizo Diner:A wonderful, niche restaurant in south Delhi, serving exclusively Mizo food.
Africa Avenue, Ring Road:Two arterial roads in Delhi, currently the site of major metro and flyover constructions