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Anil Bairwal

Anil Bairwal

Something inside me still keeps suggesting
that I should stop throwing my time to idle affairs
and instead focus on some long term useful goals.
Earlier, when I knew the difference between
the useful and the useless, it was easy.
But now, when I have found that useless is not
really that useless, and useful is not really that useful,
I am no longer certain about what to choose
for the long term goals.
Earlier, I had the willpower strong enough to
continue marching forward, ignoring the little
things that kept popping up inside me–
a little longer stay in bed on waking up,
a little longer feel of tea before the gulp,
a little longer holding of her hands,
a little longer look in her eyes,
a little longer, a little tighter hug,
a little longer caress before the climax,
and so on.
But now, as I find myself trying to be more
present in the present, my willpower withers.
The little things, which were easy to ignore, have
become such irritants that I find myself incapable
of doing anything useful targeting the future
and end up writing poetry in the present.
The soldier marches from the far end towards Pakistan.
There is a spring in his walk, his boots barely touch the ground.
Reaching the gate, he stumps one boot hard on the ground
and raises the other to the height of his head, keeping
both legs straight. The crowd breaks into a lusty cheer.
Bharat Mata ki Jai!
The gate opens, and he comes face to face with a soldier
from the other side, engaged in a similar aggressive display.
They still look similar,
even after seventy years of separation.
Similar built - chest full and bulging.
Similar eyes – burning with intensity.
Similar moustaches – rising towards the sky.
Similar pride – head held high.
They watch each other menacingly
like two brothers turned against each other.
Also watching is Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam,
ensconced right in the middle of the entrance arches
on the Pakistan side. The spectacle makes him look gloomy.
He seems to be searching for someone on the Indian side.
Maybe his compatriots? Gandhi, Nehru, Patel?
There are no arches on the Indian side, but his fellow
collaborators are all there. Seated together, they are
covering their eyes, mouth and ears with their hands,
like the three monkeys.
As the sunlight begins to ebb, the two soldiers give
their last rallying cry and lower the flags.
As they back off, the gates are immediately shut and bolted.
A loud bang reverberates from the gates
and spreads across the border.
The cheering crowd goes wild in a rush of patriotism.
Both the sides raise their flags, shout and whistle, and sing
songs pledging their life to the nation.
As the sun, bored of watching the same theatrics every day,
goes off to the other side, things starts to sober down.
Everyone starts preparing to get back to their hotels.
Except for the old fogeys.
They stay in their positions, with wrinkles on their foreheads.
They stare at the ground as if miffed with each other,
as if reflecting if all this was worth the trouble,
as if wondering if there was no other way to achieve freedom.
The world awaits.
The stage is set.
Just one more push and
Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Missile Technology Control Regime.
Access to Unmanned aerial vehicles
capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Precise weapons to target the adversaries.
Veto power at United Nations Security Council.
Imagine the possibilities.
Business opportunities in other countries,
especially more backwards than ours.
It is time to ‘make in India’
and grab our share of the world’s wealth.
The opportunities are unlimited.
The motherland, ready for her seat
at the high table with other bigwigs,
calls upon all its able-bodied and strong
minded people to grab the chance.
It is a rare occasion.
A non-aligned, peace loving,
even-handed country has few opportunities.
What can it do after all?
Sit on silent protest?
Give lectures on advantages of peace?
Maintain the old ’normal’?
Or advocate a slight change?
Keeping up with the muscular Joneses
is the new thing.
Not the right time to worry
about the last person in the line.
It is time to upgrade the rating.



Charanjeet Kaur

Lucha Corpi: In Conversation with Ketaki Datta
Mamang Dai: In Conversation with D Ramakrishna

Literary Essay
Sharad Chandra: ‘Theatre of the Absurd’

Literary Articles
Devika Karnad: ‘Lakshmi Kannan’s Going Home
Kaushik Acharya & Kiriti Sengupta: ‘Commentaries on The Gita
Shailja Chandra: ‘The Mona Lisa Phenomenon in Gulzar’s Writings’
Subhra Roy: ‘Re-reading Easterine Kire’s Bitter Wormwood
Tuhin Mukhopadhyay: ‘Anita Desai’s Voices in the City
Yogesh Kumar Negi: ‘Himachali Folk Music’

Book Reviews
Chandan Das – ‘A Certain Way
Manjinder Kaur Wratch – ‘Murder In Mahim
Nirojita Guha – ‘The Ocean of Churn
Rittvika Singh – ‘Baaz
Subashish Bhattacharjee – ‘And Gazelles Leaping’ & ‘Cradle of the Clouds
Tuhin Sanyal – ‘Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral
Wani Nazir – ‘Where are the Lilacs?’

Ambika Ananth: Editorial Comment
Ambika Ananth
Amrita Bhattacharyya
Anil Bairwal
Nilamadhab Kar
Parag Mallik
Rahul Jayaram
Shelton Pinheiro
Sunil Sharma
Swati Srivastava

Smitha Sehgal – ‘Editorial Musings’
Chandra Mohan Bhandari – ‘Himalayan Splendour’
Debasis Tripathy – ‘Convenient Friendship’
K Srinivasan Subramanian – ‘Tulasi has flowered’
Mohammad Shamsur Rabb Khan – ‘Old Man’s Fare’
Palak Sharma – ‘The Strange Journey’
Pragya Bhagat – ‘Portrait of an Old Man’
Shweta Tiwari – ‘His Love’
Sunaina Jain – ‘Lost and found’

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