Paeans - and Aches

over the years

Sunday, March 24, 2019

While you still can

These aren’t good times in this our land;
Step up, stand up now, create, while you still can.

Do you write? It’s time to free your hand:
Write truth, write now, write straight, because you can.

Do you make music? Good, now you’re the band!
Sing of how we can beat hate, sing loud, you can.

Do you tell jokes? Take the mic, woman.
Mock them and they deflate; we know you can.

Got art that can help us understand
That we can’t abdicate? You must, you can.

Gather your courage, it’s time to stand.
No, no, don’t hesitate, you know you can.

These aren’t good times in this our land.
Don’t wait till it’s too late, right now we can.

(for Javed-saab and Gulzar-saab)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


That place
with my first backpack
Perhaps I was only discovering
the joy of discovering
It was special nevertheless
I have always wanted to go back
but from what I hear
it’s unrecognisable now
Another paradise
that cannot be regained
That house
my great-grandfather built
on that street named for him
on that other coast
Properties sold
by descendants less hard-working
before I could find my roots
An inheritance I did not inherit
Our place
which I can never go back to
because there is no Us
But which taking someone else to
would mean losing that too
No matter
It remakes itself each year
and soon it will be discovered
by some young backpacker

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Unprovoked, the thought arises
Clear, full-formed, unemotional:
‘Today you will die.’
Usually, it happens when taking aeroplane trips —
Easily understood after finding vertigo —
And now so much a part of me
That I can do three or four flights
Without remembering
There are ten kilometres of nothing
Between my butt and the earth
(And now that I’ve put the words down
There’s that down the drain)
But sometimes it comes on earthbound days
On happy afternoons, lazy evenings
When the heart has been well-behaved
And that little lesion is forgotten
‘Today you will die’
Bland, certain, undramatic
And then, before I remember
To put my affairs in order
Life distracts me
Until it doesn’t
And then I realise
I’m still here

Monday, March 19, 2018


There are sunsets that live in my mind
Sunrises too, fewer
And moons, and daytime vistas
We photograph everything these days
But I resist
Not wanting to record moments
But live them
trusting my own fallible storage
What I'd like instead is some medium
That could preserve love
And yes, I know
That love too has its cycles
And frozen moments
Are not moments relived
So I shall sit here, gazing at the stars
Perhaps I will wait for sunrise

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I lost a poem
In a browser window that crashed
The all-saving cloud
Does not recall my words
Neither do I
Maybe it was good enough
To save
Maybe I should save this

There is a season

Another winter has gone by
Without knowing how the cold
Has been treating you
It followed another monsoon
During which I never heard
Your worry about me getting drenched
And you won't be here
To listen to me being oppressed
By another summer

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Night vision

In my dreams
I don't need my reading glasses
But I keep them by my bedside
Just in case

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


For EdeS

I didn't know you, really.
I was just one of the pimply thousands who passed through your ken,
unremarkable, more concerned with falling for unattainable girls
and being ever the outsider among the rich kids
than getting to know the wealth you had to offer.
(I wish I had, it's true, but then I did get to meet you
in your poems, which you said is the best way.)
It certainly wasn't the place;
now that all my friends are married and their children named
I only step into places of worship for funerals.
So maybe it was the day:
almost ten years after that first big loss
and midway between the birthday and deathday of another.
Maybe it was Amazing Grace;
hearing that you hummed it, like I did
(was it just the love for the music, as it was for me?)
before Mum, who I first heard it from, died.
Yes, maybe it was that.
That's why I cried at your funeral.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

From that back bench hiding place

For EdeS

From that back bench hiding place,
too shy to admit to writing poetry,
to not quite selling soap (but close)
and writing greeting-card doggerel.
If I’d risked facing your epée
maybe this wouldn’t have been
forty-eight words too many.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


How old would you have been today, boyoboy?
I’m guessing you would have said
Two-year-old child I am
Or your other favourite age, sixteen.
So many things stood still for you,
So many things stayed unchanging.
Like your moneybox
Which you proffered to anyone
Who needed to pay for anything.
You knew there was always going to be money there
And that that money could pay for anything:
The bananas Dad pretended he had no cash for;
The ‘small phone’ on which only you would talk;
From toys you wanted, that keyboard you cried about;
The shoes that would never bear your weight;
The very many little treasures
Which fill a cupboard
Which was a gift from a hospital
Where you charmed everyone when you were there.
There was enough for all those things.
And you know what?
You were right, boyoboy.
Your birthday was the only one we’d have
A party for
And being July, it would rain
And we’d wonder, will they come
And you’d be sure they would.
And they would come, some bedraggled
They would fuss over you
Bring you red things, or music things
You were right there too, boyoboy.
That money box always had money in it
And you never aged, despite all those birthdays.
You would always be our little boy:
That was the deal, boyo.
That you would always be there
That things would always stay unchanged for you.
Happy birthday, boyo.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

That smell

That smell (that smell)
I remember it well
Or to be more precise
That smell (so nice)
Carries with it
Stories that I didn't know
Were still safe and well

If I could bottle that smell
Just to keep, not to sell
I'd keep it to help me remember
When my brain hits December
When the rest of my senses
Are gone to hell
That smell ( that smell)
Will bring you back to me.

The smell of you, when we first met
It was raindrops
And a quiet perfume
You told me was your mother's
That found its way to me
Through the smell of dosas
And tea
I caught that blend today
And it all came back to me

When we snuck out of that party
Into the garden
And we kissed for the first time
The smell of mango leaves
Always brings you back
To me

The smell of the sea
Mixed with a little strand
Of drying fish
And the heady odour
Of the sweat of our bodies
If only I could save a vial of that air
To bring you back to me

And that smell of dried leaves burning
Brings back the flames
Of the anger that consumed you
That consumed us
That's a smell I wish
Wasn't so easy to find
Because, yes,
That brings you back too.

And the smell of hospital corridors
Brings back that time
Of fear, when you almost didn't make it
But then it also bought us back
And that smell
All things considered
I'd bottle it too

And now there's new odours
To breathe deep, together
To forget, as we go on

And then remember
In strange places, far away
When some stray zephyr
Some wisp of fragrance
Brings it all back
Brings you back
Brings us back.

This is a work in progress for the page, and also still evolving as a performance piece. (I invited audience collaboration, asking, between stanzas, about smells that evoked memories for them.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Animal Passions keeps calm and carries on

The female lllacme plenipes is the leggiest animal: she walks on 750
The male has just 562, & 4 of those are gonopods, which is V-day nifty


Arthropod aedeagi deliver spermatophores (capsules of spermatozoa)
Some leave 'em lying round on the ground (most only give them to their lovers)


Some arthropods also give their partners gifts of spermatophylax
Which are balls of nutrients for the kiddies; a better gift than lilacs


Most male spiders are smaller than females & a date could be a bad fate
So they detach their pedipalps & scarper & it continues to ejaculate


Daddy-longlegs couples mate & then mum delivers fertilised eggs
Dad Daddy guards ’em, & doesn’t let mum Daddy eat ’em, not even if she begs


The blanket octopus male doesn’t get between the sheets with his lover
He detaches a… load-bearing arm and leaves it with her to… deliver


Hyena females have pseudopenises: clitorises which protrude 7 inches
For males this means they have to practise to get it in in the clinches


Many placental mammals’ baculums & baubellums aid 'em when having sex
Not humans alas, but we still get boners: creditable in that context


Leopard slugs are hermaphrodites who indulge in bondage play
They dangle from slime ropes & entwine penises & so literally swing both ways


The queenless ant female pulls off the ultimate dick (re)move
While they’re at it, she bites it off but leaves it in to prove her V-day love


Adactylidium mite females celebrate V-day while still inside mother
Then eat mama from the inside & leave, pregnant, thanks to their brother


Mecoptera studs give gals V-day gifts: bugs that they have caught
Less alpha males pretend to be girls, take the bugs & go off to court


The seahorse male has a cool Valentine gift: an egg pouch on his tummy
Bae drops her eggs in the pouch; he fertilises 'em & then he's mummy


Giraffes have something in common with POTUS number 45
Males taste their ladies' urine as part of the courtship jive


Fruit bat males have sex lives worthy of all male aspiration
While they're doing it the female encourages them with oral… affirmation


Indian flying fox females get better Valentines than most other bats
The males provide lingual stimulation; they clearly know where it's at


Hippopotamus Valentine's Day involves flying excrement
It may not work for you, good thing, 'cause for them it's signalling intent


In California winters, garter snakes come out to play one and all
They tend to do in rather large groups; it's called a mating ball


North Atlantic Right Whale threesomes are not easy to emulate
They can do simultaneous intromission; no one gets left… out, mate


California beaches, they say, are known for mating games
But the orgies of the grunion put all the others to shame


Lady Australian buprestid beetles are the colour of bottles of beer
Males have been seen…hitting bottles(like good Aussies they say Cheers!)


Of course sloths are slow, and on Valentine's day they… linger
But they do it dangling from branches; they're the ultimate swingers


Fig wasps are born in figs & their partners are their nestlings
You might say their Valentines are always quite incesting


When sharks make out, serious biting is part of the ritual
So when a shark chomps into you, just say the feeling's not mutual


Previously: 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016


(P)ink-stained wretches

My #JournalistValentines from 2016 and 2017

From 2016


Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sources familiar with developments say
I could get exclusive with you


How do I love thee?
Let me file a listicle
That counts the ways


Deadlines don't matter
For you I am aching
If you don't go out with me
My heart will be #Breaking


I'm nuts about you
I have to confess, love
No point denying it
They all know at Press Club


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
The Desk says no, that's way to clichéd


Hey I just met you
And this is crazy
But I have to file by 10pm
Or my boss will slay me


I love you more
Than press releases
You make me want
To stop the presses


I've searched north and south
and east and west
You're one I want
To be my conflict of interest


You say ink-stained wretches
Have no sense of romance
But I love you more
Than my travel allowance


Do not doubt my love for you
'Tis more powerful than wild horses
I have confirmation
From two independent sources


O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou a flack?
Quit that PR agency or if you won't. I'l quit being a hack


If you were any sweeter, your last name would be fondant
That's why I want to be your principal correspondent


I'll send you all my love by special cargo
And you can keep it in permanent embargo


You and I, darling, have a special accord
Don't you think it's time we went off the record?


Some like Barkha & some like Rajdeep
I'm glad I like them both but, peeps,
I wonder if this channel switching
Is really all that bitching

Or are greater TRPs a sign?
Should I watch Newshour at nine?
Should I choose between anchor & anchor?
Or like the nation, watch that wanker?


Closing time in the newsroom
& I have an idea, my sweet
The paper will soon be put to bed
We should follow toute suite


Roses are red, pink, white, yellow, even black.. Sorry, where was I?


Attn: Desk,
Did I make you wait?
I'm so sorry my dears.
This Valentine ain't late,
It's early for next year.


2017 batch


We're on the same beat and our publications compete
Alas it's only at press conferences that we get to meet


Avec moi ce soir, voulez vous coucher?
Say oui and I'll fill out the on-assignment voucher


Are things getting intense? Do we need clothes here?
I think we should practice full disclosure.


Your advance (copy) has been received and seen
Now, let's both get Lit, if you know what I mean


The markets are up by every index
Let's you and me meet and celebrate the sensex


With edits and op-eds the editor can fiddle
Let's you and me spend some time fine-tuning your middle


What would it take to get you to my kamra?
I could snapchat you my piece-to-camera


Of course it's legal; of course you oughta
I should know; I'm a crime reporter


I'd be good for you, you know that my sweet
I spend all my time on the healthcare beat


No one will know if we hook up, I solemnly swear
My bylines are all under diplomatic affairs


Everyone knows Desk gives the best head
lines. So I'm a copy editor; take me to bed


I don't edit copy, I'm not a reporting hack
But I have a column that I could show you in the sack


That's a lens in my pocket but I'm happy to see ya
I'm the photographer and I'm good at exposures


Yes, you're with @BuzzFeedIndia, but I still think we should date
Here are 17 reasons why I know it will be great


I know you're very busy and online there's no off day
But surely you have time for a little @scroll_in the hay?


Of course you're very busy with that Page 1 lead today
But maybe later you and I could do an exposé?


I would confess my love which has grown & ripened
I would try to woo you but I don't even get a stipend


There's also a Storify which collects verses from other people, from both years, here.

Saturday, March 05, 2016


Draw lines in the dirt
Build walls around it
Add a roof, fill it with things
Borrowed from the universe
Now call this cube of air

Sunday, February 14, 2016

More offspring of Animal Passions

Nudibranchs do autotomy which is really kinda neat
Post-Valentine's, they bobbitise themselves then grow new ones (& repeat)


Some fish are sequential hermaphrodites; i.e., they switch sex
So V-day can give new meaning to 'vice versa' and 'doing the ex'


But behold the Bombay Night Frog: they do it differently
He, er, gets onto her back, then relies on gravity


Very few this year, because I got sidetracked with Journalist Valentines. But, previously: 2005, 2014, 2015.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I once wished I had a better memory
I'd like to hold on to the fading traces
The many graces which now recede
Fuzzy at the edges, in softer focus
But what use are memories
When their subject is gone?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Dust on his wheelchair
A stash of his chocolates
which you cannot bear to eat
His money box, which was always offered
to anyone who asked


Your shadow falls in unexpected places.
There are holes shaped just like you, in places you never went to.
All that was centred around you now drifts.


Grieving is not a process.
You do not recover from
losing what cannot be replaced.
The loss, and the grief, are now you too.
Until you go too.
Meanwhile, you learn
— you try to learn —
to not let it show


It feels profane
To write about you

Thursday, August 13, 2015


The glow from your cellphone
limns your smile
as you read your messages
on your walk down the city's dark streets

Saturday, February 14, 2015

(More) Animal Passions

All of these are fact-based. Try me. Look them up.


On V-Day, one male honeybee gets to mate, but at a sad price
Ejaculation ejects sperm. And genitals, which can't bee nice


Echidna males have something that would make you scratch your forehead
The male valentine equipment comes with, you guessed it, four heads


With anglerfish, the love-bite is for keeps, and that's no metaphor
The male *literally* stays attached: it's V-day for ever more


You think your.. Valentine is big? Mate, you're actually quite thrifty
The male barnacle has a thing that's his body length times fifty.


The Valentine antics of the antichinus are worthy of a talk at TED
They do nothing but bonk for weeks until the males go blind & drop dead


Banana slugs are hermaphrodites, so each one can do & be done
But occasional apophallation can end the Valentine's fun of one


Squid celebrate Valentine's day at arm's length, you could say
The male throws sperm packets, the female caches them away


Dolphins don't have hands or feet, they're not 'manipulative'
But their prehensile male organs make V-day, um, creative


According to @realscientists, nurse sharks are prone to hi-jinks
Their Valentine celebrations are a physical form of group-think


Feline males have keratin barbs on their Valentine equipment
Withdrawal is painful, so females are quite vocal post delivery of shipment


The water boatman's Valentine song's sung in a way that's all its own
It vibrates its penis against its abs, the loudest animal sound known

(in proportion to the critter's size)


Harpactea sadistica ladies have no vagina-like place for.. deposits
So the gent drills one in her body & opens his Valentine faucet


Turkeys meant for eating are for enormous breasts breeded
Which makes natural breeding tough, so artificial Valentinisation is needed


Flatworms are hermaphrodites, they.. come with TWO 'swords' on the tummy
They fence each other for V-day, & the loser gets to be mummy


Giant pandas don't seem to KNOW exactly how to get it on
So for Valentine season researchers have to show them panda porn


Bonobos don't fight much; they resolve conflict with sexual play
In other words, for bonobos, every day is St Valentine's day


Male marsupials have two-pronged penises which seems like too many for one
But the females have two vaginas, so they're ready for Valentine's fun


Male 'gators don't need Valentine viagra, they have permanent erections
Excessive amounts of collagen there explain the constant distension


Snakes & lizards have two sets of valentine tackle
But they use them one at a time, which is practical


Amphibian Valentine play does not involve a nexus twixt the sexes
Daddy semi-leapfrogs Mummy, and then performs amplexus


Older, ahem, couplets, here.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Let us then render unto religion what it has lost
Let us agree that the earth was made in seven days
That winged humaniform creatures act as emissaries
That woman was made from a man's rib
Let us accept that the rules were personally carved on stone by Himself
Let us reject the notion of a round planet
Let the sun, the moon and the universe revolve around us again
And let us also reject anaesthesia and all surgery barring interspecies skull transplants
Let us endorse the idea that many hands make gods work
And that conception can be divine, or through several divinities in succession
Once more, let us buy our brides and burn them when their husbands die and they are of no use
Or maybe let us just discard them, leave them to the company of others now also useless, in a town by a river
And yes, let us not forget to cover them in modesty when they live, lest they be coveted like our other goods
Let us not produce the images of what the divine has created
And also his prophets
Let us not question, let us not offend
Let us just kill each other
In defence of imaginary friends

Amen. Tathastu. Ameen.

For Charlie Hebdo, for Perumal Murugan

Friday, December 26, 2014


I search for poetry
By writing it—
Nonsense verse, parody, doggerel—
Always hoping that, now and then,
A poem will find me

For Philip Nikolayev, who asked why I don't call myself a poet

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tenzin Tsundue has been detained

Tenzin Tsundue has been detained
By unavoidable circumstances
He regrets that he will not be in time
For tea and dhokla
No T Square for him
Tenzin Tsundue
Won't be perpetrating
Such anti-national stunts
As a satyagraha
At the Sabarmati Ashram
We have our dandi ready
Should he attempt to march
Tenzin Tsundue
Won't be be jumping
In on Jinping
Or lowering large banners
And embarrassing the Über Rai
Tenzin won't be at the table
When we put out the good porcelain
He won't be be bringing
His bhool
Into our china shop
Tenzing Tsundue
Won't be walking to Lhasa
No Apso factor
For the running dogs
Of democracy
Tenzin Tsundue
Won't be causing
Any undue tension
Tenzing Tsundue
Has been detained

Thursday, August 28, 2014


It's not you, it's me, she said.
Years later, I realised she was right.
It's not me, it's you, I said.
And then I let her go.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Animal Passions

More like these.

A prehensile whatsit gives the elephant motor control.
When his Valentine expresses delight, he smirks, ‘that’s how I roll!’

Ants are almost all female,& only the Queen gets to hump
Her Valentines die after they mate mid-air,& fall down with a thump

Male ducks have spiral thingies, which are with speed imbued.
On Valentine's Day those quackers redefine 'corkscrewed.'


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Performance Piece

There are different ways to perform a poem
       If, that is, you're okay with the word 'perform'
       Because there are those, you see,
       Who believe that the faintest hint of emotion
       Is so last century, so high school elocution
       So they read words of passion and pain
       Of despair and decay, of revolution and rebirth
       In a sad monotone
       They can make "I love you" sound like "I hate you"
There are those who rhyme
Any old word, any time
Breaking lines any
Where as long as the penny
Falls into the slot
Makes sense of not
       And there are the ones for whom performance
       Is a nice excuse to say
       What they wouldn't say in front of Mum
       To say "Fuck!" on the microphone
       Without getting arrested or spanked
There are the earnest ones
Whose friends or children
Don't listen to them
       And the patriots who expect applause
       Because they wave a flag
       Never mind that they spout cliche
       in bad rhyme
And the awesomely erudite
The professional academics
Who don't care that no more than five
People in the world understand them
As long as those five are in a position
To hand out residencies, fellowships and grants
       And yes, the performers
       Who will bring drums that add drama to their inanities
       Costumes to clothe their banalities
       Or take their clothes off
       To Make Statements
       Except that's all they do
       Make statements, not poetry
And worst of all
The ones who have nothing to say
So, instead, they
Bitch about those who do

A Bombay second

It's the time between
The light turning green
And the first impatient honk
It's the time he says it will take
To find that file
It's how long
A wedding procession
(or a plaster god
or a funeral)
Will block the road
It's the time you could give
An ambulance, siren imploring, to pass
But don't
It's the time by which you miss your train
Which costs you a red mark
And one-third of a day's leave
It's the time a taxi drivers says
It will take to fill his tank
Time he never had
When his meter was up
It's the time a poet wants
From you


Give me back my poems
The verses I wrote in my head
While I was hanging out of a train
Or so tightly squeezed into a bus
That I couldn't reach my pen
Give me back the ryhmes
That appeared fully formed
In conference rooms
Give me back the lines
Scribbled in the margins
Of newspapers a raddiwalla now owns
Give me back the metaphors
The deft turns of phrase
I loaned you for your magazine piece
The word play I gave your ads
The rhythms lost to your deadline clock
Give me back my poems

This poem

This poem is not unusual
many have written similar
more will follow, unperturbed,
that it is a path often taken

This poem is not about struggle
or discrimination
or poverty
This poem was written in the back seat of a car
headed for an Open Mic
a car with a full tank
and an engine that purrs smooth
though the paint is flecked
the body dented
and the carpets leave no doubt
that its the monsoon

This poem was not born to privilege either
it will not be read merely
because of its provenance

This poem has friends, though
who will nod and smile
at the right places
and applaud with sincerity
born of friendship if not enthusiasm

This poem isn't sure it's a poem
It searches for itself
in the faces of others
it is looking for its white picket fence

This poem would like to have coffee with you
maybe dinner and a drink
and talk until morning

This poem is not a love poem
but it thinks it loves you

This poem is not polished
it must warp and morph
perhaps into a Form
be cut and rearranged

This poem must compete with non-poems
that bring food to the table
and pay the rent

This poem wants to wave gracefully at you
from under its crown and sash
this poem wants world peace
loves Mother Teresa and Mandela

This poem knows it won't live forever
that it won't even be remembered
that there's no heaven
but hell is obtainable

This poem thinks mortality sucks

This poem has potential
This poem wants to be brief
This poem is terrified of your inattention
This poem thinks it should end now

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Elegy that could have been for me

Last year, it was you
who slipped away, you
who left friends stunned;
that one so young,
so warm, so bright,
was simply not there,
never would be there..
It wasn't fair,
it wasn't right.

This year, I should,
with as little warning,
have gone too;
a less luminous act
—don't smile, you,
you know it's true—
but, in fact,
as I was lucky to discover,
more loved, more
than I ever dreamed I could be.

I sit here, now, and wonder,
if it had been the other way,
if, that day,
you'd pulled through,
and, on that other day,
I'd slipped under
—for, really, it was that close
for both of us—
knowing each other
as fleetingly as we did
(two conversations,
four cigarettes, a light,
and the Italian dessert
you insisted I try),
if you had lived and I had died
would you have cried?

Know what? I think you,
you would have.
That's why
knowing each other
as fleetingly
as we did, I,
though it's been a year and some
since you slipped away,
mourn for you today.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two versions of the poem, read at Bombay's Bhivpuri read-meet.

Repace, Storvas, Betaloc too,
Sip of water, down they go.
And Clopilet and Ecosprin
All on a life-long prescription

Sip that water, down they go,
Once a day, no less, no more.
They are a life-long prescription
Like breathing out and breathing in.

Once a day, no less, no more;
Got to take them if I want to go
On breathing out and breathing in.
Got to take my medicine.

Got to take them if I want to go
Anywhere but the ICU once more
Got to take my medicine.
I'm paying for not listening.

Anywhere but the ICU once more.
Monitors and drips and needle sores,
I paid for not listening,
The wages of too much nicotine.

Monitors and drips and needle sores
Have made their mark. No more, no more.
The wages of all that nicotine
That was part of the daily regimen

They made their mark. No more, no more.
It's Repace, Storvas, Betaloc too
Now part of the daily regimen
With Clopilet and Ecosprin.

* * *

Repace, Storvas, Betaloc,
Says my friend the cardio doc
And Clopilet and Ecosprin
They are your life-long prescription

Says my friend, the cardio doc
As part of my post-op pep-talk
They are your life-long prescription
Like breathing out and breathing in.

As part of my discharge pep-talk;
He also tells me I must walk
Deep-breathing out, deep-breathing in.
And got to take my medicine.

He also tells me I must walk
Away from things like cheese or pork
Got to take my medicine.
My payment for not listening.

Away from things like cheese and pork,
At fats and oil I must now baulk
My payment for not listening,
The wages of too much nicotine.

At fats and oil I must now baulk,
Knock that beefsteak off my fork.
The wages of too much nicotine.
Now life's all full of food that's lean.

Knock that beefsteak off your fork!
And top up -- always -- that tablet stock,
And makes sure that the food's all lean,
With all that cholesterol in your blood stream.

Keep topping up the medicine stock
Instead of that old twenties pack.
With all that cholesterol in my blood stream,
I have to change my regimen

Instead of that old twenties pack,
It's Repace, Storvas, Betaloc.
Now part of the daily regimen,
With Clopilet and Ecosprin.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

1 New Message

Camera A:

I feel the vibration, see
From the corner of my eye
The tell-tale glow.
My hand, unbidden,
Reaches out. And stops:
That would not be polite.
Love the one you’re with,
And all that.
A black bowtie
And a notepad arrive;
You take charge, and order.
Quickly, quietly, I
Check the phone.

Camera B:

Your face is lit by the glow
Of the message on your phone.
Conversation floats around you, unheard;
Your eyes lowered, veiled, elsewhere;
A smile appears at the very corner of your lips
For just about half a second;
Your thumb caressing letters, words
Into being. You’re lost
To us, to me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Non-poem for the Peace Mela

I was going to write a ghazal about peace
But I woke up to the neighbour’s loud TV.

I was going to write a haiku about brotherly love
But I had to fight my way into a local train.

I was going to write a villanelle about co-existence
But I argued with my dad this morning.

I was going to write an ode to equal opportunity
But I saw late-arriving VIPs stroll to reserved seats
While others were herded to the back.

I was going to write a poem for the Peace Mela today.

A slightly different version of the one written for and read at the Peace Mela.


Illness, pain and grief are part of the ICU.
Death’s waiting too, with his net, in the ICU

An old woman screams against the dying of the night;
Her body’s giving up but not she, not yet, in the ICU.

A baby—a baby—tubes feed and drain him.
Hasn’t breast-fed or got his diaper wet, in the ICU.

Accident victim: eyes vacant through bandages.
It hasn’t got inside his head that he’s in the ICU.

My mother. Needles, catheters, bedpans.
Phosphates low, dignity shed, in the ICU

You ask me to believe? You want me to pray?
Peter’s faith won’t be rekindled. Not in the ICU.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Older — 4


You look at me and think
                Old man.
You don’t see the toddler
Gawping at a world
Where all was new.
                But he’s still there.
You don’t see the scruffy schoolboy
Making paper rockets
With pages stolen
From his General Science notebook.
                But he’s still there.
You don’t see the gawky lad;
Pimples and the first hint
Of a moustache and a voice that’s
Sometimes grown and
Sometimes not
And sometimes squawk.
Or the shiny young man
With his Work Clothes
And Work Bag and first paycheque.
Or the career man and his obsessions.
Or the new father, delirious with joy and terror.
Or the older father whose child
Has just shown him that he’s done his job well
By telling him he’s talking through his hat
                They’re all still there.
But you just see
                The bald scalp
                The crumbling face
                The stumble
                The stiffness.
You just see
                The old man
But it’s not your fault
That’s the way it is
And will be, until you are
                An old man.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Don’t tell my mother I write poetry—she thinks I work in an advertising agency.

I used to write poetry, right from school days. Got one published in the school magazine and all. Wrote quite a few in college too, though most of those were corny attempts at humour.

In the early days (my early days) of the WWWeb, I put some of them online, anonymously, and some kind things were said about them by random strangers.

Emboldened, I showed them to a very lit friend. She called what I wrote Hallmark cards. Perfectly valid, of course, and justified, now that I look back at those specimens; but, delicate flower that I was, I never admitted to writing poetry for, like, ten years or thereabouts after that.

Then, just as a relieved world thought this was permanent, and had let down its guard, another friend queered the pitch. Perhaps she was sorely tried by my dumping large numbers of the things in her mailbox, and she wished to share the pain. At any rate, she suggested I put them online somewhere. Blogs had happened by then, so I shoved the lot on an anonyblog. And started writing more of them. Some worked, some didn’t, and what simultaneously delighted and disappointed me most was that several people who professed not to understand poetry told my avataar of that time that these resonated with them.

That blog service—Rediffblogs, if you must know—sucked raw eggs, so I ditched that blog, and moved to Blogger.

Then I told some people about it. Pals whose opinion I wanted, that kind of thing.

Then a few others got to know of it. And I got to know that they knew. Which spooked me and I took the whole thing down.

But then, I’ve been thinking about it. With a few, a happy few, of them pomes, some smart-type folks, including, like, poets and all, told me that they were not totally crappy. Most of the newer stuff has escaped major mauling at Caferati. I have read at a few poetry thingies. And, besides, I have grown a skin like a frigging rhinocerous since those early days.

So, I figured, what the hell. And I put the blog back on. (After deleting a number of poems that I was either embarassed about or that were too personal, natch. That much I haven’t changed.)

So, gentlefolk, when you have time to kill and are feeling particularly boodthirsty, drop by. Comments most earnestly solicted, either there, or via email, or in person.

A contact in Hallmark, or failing that, Archies, wouldn’t hurt either. Heh. No. Shaddup.


The name. You have to mispronounce the first word for the pun to work, I’m afraid. Such is my sense of humour. I did think of Growing Paeans, but that was too close to describing some of the earlier stuff. And there was also Paeans and Needles.. Never mind.

Ah yes. That subject line. The original, attributed to Jacques Séguéla: Don’t tell my mother I work in an advertising agency—she thinks I play piano in a whorehouse.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SMS from the socially inept

at parties,
how did non-drinking wallflowers hide
before SMS?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Five-minute Riff

“Five minutes.”
That’s all I have.
Warhol promised fifteen,
So perhaps I’ll be back
Next year.

Five minutes

“Five minutes.”
That’s all I have
To strut my stuff,
To wiggle my rhymes
And drop metaphors.

Five minutes
To let you quickly
Scan my innards
And decide if you’d like
To buy my poetry.

Five minutes
To grab a slice
Of you
While you’re busy
Sampling me.

Five minutes.

It will do.

Written for, and read at, Mumbai Poetry Live, at the 2007 Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Older — 3

It used to be
That “too far away from home”
Meant a few thousand miles or more.
Perhaps a continent away
Or even the other side of the world.
Now, a few steps away
from my front door,
I hesitate:
What if I stumble here?
Lose my balance there?
What if my breath gives out?
Am I too far away from home?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sunset at Bundi

A cold evening
Drifts down from the Aravallis.
One ear is warm.
Science would insist
That it’s a cheap phone
heating up.
I know what it really is:
You called
To share the sunset.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bombay 1

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. *whew*
Way too many syllables
To fit into a haiku.


Writers writing about writing.

Isn’t it cool
To be able to use one’s only skill
To describe one’s only gift
And call it art?
The only thing more vain—
Not to speak of self-indulgent
and probably easier—
Would be speakers speaking about speaking.

New words

Teach me,
Teach me new words;
Mine are all worn out.
They buy, they sell,
They build and knock down,
They have been weighed out,
Measured, counted, timed,
And sold.
I’m out of stock now,
So, teach me.
Teach me new words.
For I have run out of love songs.

Riff 8

Sing for me.
Not just to me,
Sing for me;
Because I can’t hold a tune.
I will write you love songs
And you can sing them to me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I left some poems in a cab today

If I was trying to make a living out of poetry
The title would have read:
I left some poems in the train today.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Some you meet, smile,
And move on.

Some fill a need,
Patch a tear, soothe a brow;
Then, they’re needed no more.

Others tarry longer,
Recalled now and then,
In joy or sorrow,
Or restful contemplation,
Pinned up on softboards,
Entrusted to a computer’s memory
Because your own is fickle,
And you wish not to be.

And once in a lifetime
(More often if you’re lucky),
One comes along
That does not just speak to your heart;
It breaks your heart;
It makes your heart;
It is your heart.
There is no need to memorise it,
For its words are your words,

That, Love, is what I would be to you.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


They look the same to me,
these outlines grown familiar,
wild, immature, raw,
many dreams ahead;
until I see them juxtaposed
with .. kids .. or so they seem ..
though, God knows,
they’ve seen at least twenty summers.
Weren't we that age a minute ago?

But here were are,
miles more forehead,
and more grey hair,
(and more tints!)
not a sharp jaw-line amongst us,
no taut bellies,
no unlined skin,
a knee pops here,
and there, cholesterol counts are compared,
and over by the window
someone holds up up a piece of paper
and then—
that betrayal
of lenses less flexible—
shifts it to a more comfortable focal length.

So here we are
Still making world domination plans,
though often, next weekend is paradise enough.

Jeeze. Is this it, then?
Are we .. middle-aged?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Green and Orange and Blue

Nonsense verse that will only make sense to Gtalk and Gmail users. :)

Gtalk 'offline' icon

Every little while
the dot is seen
to turn to green—
and I, I turn too,
to a brighter hue,
and type out a smile.

Gtalk 'available' icon

Gtalk 'idle' icon

But then, but then,
it fades, that glow,
and as we all know,
nothing rhymes with orange.

Gtalk 'busy' icon

Monday, August 28, 2006

On encountering yet another government form that requires women to fill in Father’s/Husband’s Name

One of these days
It will all add up.
She’ll see one form too many
And she’ll scream.
One of these days
She won’t give in
To your attempt
To make her just
An add-on;
Without a man.
One of these days
She will say,
Damn culture.
Damn tradition.
And damn you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Miffed 7 — on a rainy day

That you should be here
Is not in doubt;
Hyper AC here,
And it’s raining out.
Got drenched twice,
I’m dying to pee here,
It would be nice
If you left the loo key here.

A parody of this.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

And so you return, my love

And so you return, my love,
as if nothing had happened,
expecting the yearning
I have let you claim as your own.
You dance for me,
tap on my window,
sing siren songs from under the trees,
confident that I will smile,
and come running.
Yes, it’s true
that in the past
I have forgiven anew each year
your absence,
let go unquestioned
your other dalliances;
content to love you
when you want to be loved.
But after last year,
when you battered me senseless;
after last year,
when you took so much of me;
after last year,
I welcome you ..
with hesitation,
with fear.
Yes, I need you,
I will admit that.
But it’s a saner love now,
after last year.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Why I write

Annie says it best for me on her page:

“I write.

“Because I like words. Because I derive my sense of self (and my lack of the self-sense) from words. Because sometimes, words are the only refuge there is.

“Sometimes, I write for money.

“More often, I generate a lot of words, for neither love nor money.... but simply because there is nothing else I can do.”

It’s only gilding the lily, but let me add this.

If you have to find reasons why you must write, you don’t get it, and never will.

If you can argue in scholarly fashion about writing as an agent of social change, you don’t get it, and never will.

If you can go an entire month—or even a week—without feeling the need to write, never mind whether you actually put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, you don’t get it, and never will.

If you’ve never been consumed with envy because someone else has put in words what you haven’t been able to, if you’ve never spent an hour deleting and tasting and then putting back a word and tasting again and then deleting it again and then throwing a wadded up sheet of paper into a waste bin—and missing—you don’t get it, and never will.

If you’re still reading, perhaps you get it, and we can talk some more.

Being a writer is a part of me, not the whole. It doesn’t define me completely. I’m also a traveller, a gardener, a collector of trivial things, a wannabe artist, a never-will-be musician, a world changing utopian, a communist, a capitalist, a tech junkie, and lots more. But writing is an important part of me.

I’m on this board because it’s a chance to touch minds with others who share that obsession. Who understand, in fact that it’s not an obsession, it's just the way we are. Who understand that to not care about grammar and spelling and sentence construction and weighing the flavour of different synonyms is like being an engineer who despises knowledge of the load bearing strengths of different mixes of concrete.

We write. Why? Who gives a fuck? We just do. Now let’s move on.

I’m here to read what you consider your best work, to share mine with you, to learn, to share the little I have picked up along the way. To grow as a writer.

Sure, I can spend as many hours discussing social change and political correctness (or even—shudder—politics) as any of you. I’d love to. But let’s do that elsewhere. Over a coffee, or something stronger, into the small hours of the night.

Now, let’s write, shall we?

May your muse be kind.

(And if she won’t, tie the slut to the chair and don’t let her go till she does her job.)

Original title: Why I write, why I’m on this board.

Something I wrote an age ago, on Caferati, in response to one of those endless meandering “discussions” that so tire me out. Y’know, the role of the writer in society and suchlike masturbation.


Monday, June 05, 2006

You are old, father Zig

“You are old, father Zig,” the kid made a moue,
     “Your face is almost all forehead.
Yet you wear your hair long and tied into a queue—
     Is that proper for someone so near-dead?”

“When I was young,” Ziggy said, (after kicking the lout)
     “I visited the barber’s quite often.
But now that my keratin’s rapidly running out—
     Why, I’ll take all that’s left to my coffin.”

“You are old,” said the brat, forgetting respect,
     “Your hormones are a memory, god bless ’em.
But yet at the altar of love you genuflect—
     Why do you persist in writing love poems?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, grinning into his beard,
     “The point of the verse wasn’t futile.
What’s the point now? Why, haven’t you heard
     Of that diamond-shaped blue pill, Sildenafil?”

Said the stripling, “Your playlist is years out of date
     You diss the pop music of this nation.
You tell us how your music was so bloody great—
     But aren’t you the—heh—disco generation?”

Quoth the fossil, “I was easily influenced as a child,
     I will admit I knew all the lyrics—
But surely you’ll grant this: disco never defiled
     The ear as much as Bollywood remix!”

“You are old,” said the youth, “yet you still write a blog —
     Why waste what’s left of your life?
Your fingers are arthritic, your mind is a fog—
     Wouldn’t you rather spend time with the wife?”

“I have answered three questions, now kindly fuck off,”
     Said the ancient, looking hunted and harried,
“With blogposts to write, trolls to be shook off,
     Who the hell had the time to get married?”

The original poem is well-known enough to not need a reference, but just in case.. This is based on Lewis Carroll's delicious You are old, Father William, which, in turn, was a parody of Robert Southey's rather sanctimonious The Old Man's Comforts and how he gained them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Results 1 - 5 of about 11

I have never asked anyone about you
But today,
three years
five months
and fifteen days
(but who’s counting)
on an impulse,
because I was shirking work,
because I needed a break after reading 35 bad CVs,
because I saw a blog post about a guy who’d done the same thing,
because I’d never done it myself,
I asked Google whether it knew you.

You’re in another country now
(you were always a rolling stone),
your CV's much expanded,
you’ve worked there a while,
you did a course
(yay for you! I knew you’d do it eventually)
you had to drop out, though, because you were broke,
(and I was sorry to see that)
you are—or were–searching for a job...

But there’s no indication of whether
you’re still with him (your name is still the same)
or if you’ve changed your mind about having kids.
No word about whether you’re happy
Or if you ever—

                do you ever
                do you never
                do you ever

                             —Search for me.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

An SMS Poem

(: but not in SMSese :)

People saved love-letters, once;
mementoes, tied up with a ribbon
or a shoe-lace.
Souvenirs for solitary moments,
opened, smiled at, re-bound.
Or, more often, forgotten,
to be found 27 years later
when spring-cleaning.

I held your words too,
in their 160-character slices,
abbreviated, condensed, concentrated.
I held them close, took them everywhere—
added more, agonising over which one to delete,
because the phone card could take no more—
took them out to read
in strange, lonely places,
in crowded parties and busses,
in moments of joy
and sadness,
recalling special moments,
admissions made hurriedly.

I held your words next to me,
possessively, desperately
(one can’t be parted
from one’s phone these days,
which makes a good alibi),
unable to let go.

I guess I knew
I’d accepted that you
wouldn’t be coming back
when I deleted them.




Sunday, March 26, 2006

To a bad writer

There’s nothing I can say to you,
Though for kindly words I grope.
There’s little anyone can do,
You’re really past all hope.

Don’t write no more, you really shouldn’t,
It’s not your special talent.
At least I really wish you wouldn’t
Insist that I should comment.

I’m well brought up—well, yeah, repressed—
I’d prefer to not be harsh,
But your writing makes me, um, depressed;
I break out in a rash.

Your poems are wooden, your stories suck,
Your essays are simply boring.
And your learned critical remarks
Give rise to instant snoring.

When others with just one are glad,
You shove in three adjectives...
Which wouldn’t really be that bad
If your spelling wasn't defective.

(Let me guess, you poor sad creature:
Too many students in your class?
Is that why your English teacher
Didn’t whup your arse?)

Your original contributions
Are the commas between the cliches.
Your characters and plots are thin,
As solid as papier-mâché.

The emotions you present as new
We outgrew in our teens.
We paid our debts. You’re overdue.
You write beyond your means.

Please don’t take this as personal comment. Half of it’s to me. Which half, you ask? Heh.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


‘Want to go up to the terrace while the order gets ready?’
‘Yes.’ As simple as that. No games.
Her eyes glistened in the moonlight.
My cheek stung. ‘That was for presuming I’d say “Yes.”’
The other cheek. Christ. She’s ambidextrous. ‘And that was for being right.’
And then she kissed me.

9th January 2006. 55 words.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Older — 2

He won’t wear a hearing aid.

He knows her refrain by heart;
The recriminations about a life
That didn’t live up to expectations.

And the children whose first words
Had made a new man of him
Now growl at his inability
To keep up with the times.

And they don’t play the music he knew.

And there’s way too many car horns.

And the news isn’t that great.
      The newsreader looks good though.
      Yes, old men can lust

And the men who knew him
when he was a boy
Are too far away to call
And, like him, don’t understand this web thing.
Or they’re dead.

And the memories of sound
Are the sweetest things he hears.

No, he won’t wear a hearing aid.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The problem with Haiku

Too many people think
counting seventeen syll
ables is enough

Sunday, October 30, 2005


To you who wandered by this night
Of happiness and warmth and light,
Here’s a wish for you, a hearty
Diwali wish from Caferati:

More chances taken, with a smile;
More craft, and skill, and strength, and style;
More words read, by more words smitten;
More words found, more words written;

More stories applauded by all those who
Make a difference to the inner you;
More verses that scan, and illuminate
Our lives, our loves and the mortal state;

And forever after, may your diya
Light up the same scene, only happier.

Originally posted on Caferati, last year. The wish still holds.

Doggerel for Caferati

You can sing the blues,
You can pay your dues,
You can try, and still lose,
There's no money back.


You can’t expect it,
You can’t demand it,
You can deserve it,
And still not get it.

You can be bold, shy,
You can despair, cry,
You can ask God why.
But you can’t do jack.


You can’t expect it,
You can’t demand it,
You can deserve it,
And still not get it.

You can do it all right,
You can fight the good fight,
You can spend lonely nights
Put your head on the tracks.


You can’t expect it,
You can’t demand it,
You can deserve it,
And still not get it.

Gotta tell you this, baby:
You gotta do it for free,
There are no guarantees
For love and feedback.


You can’t expect it,
You can’t demand it,
You can deserve it,
And still not get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Lonar 1

Acne scar.
Beauty spot.
in your heart.


Lonar 2

Stone temple ruins testify
to mortal love for God.
White paint proclaims
Sanjay’s more recent crush on Reena.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Salaam Bombay

So you’re back, old friend, unbowed,
a little damp, thirsty perhaps.
(Ironic, isn’t it? Floods,
but no water in the damn taps?)

And you’re telling brave stories
via email and SMS:
How many kilometres
you walked; how long it took; the mess

you walked through; and wasn’t it sad
that we still haven’t got a
disaster management plan;
oh, you read the new H Potter?

It’s business as usual,
you’re back, you’re selling things.
You’re picking up the phone
after the requisite two rings

Is it resilience? Pluck?
Or just that you need that pay
cheque? Whatever your reason
I’m glad you're back. Salaam, Bombay.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

riff 7 — for a rainy day

That you should be here
Is not in doubt
There’s hot tea here
And it’s raining out
There’s chocolate,
And me, here.
Don’t question it
You should be here.

(And not That she doesn’t love me.)

Couldn’t you have had BO?
Or bad breath?
A high-pitched laugh at least?
Or eat with your mouth open?
Anything so that I can say,
There’s one thing about her
I don’t love.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


All I saw of you was:
an airport
(I do so prefer a train)
and a hospital
(and, believe it or don’t, hospitality)
and a bureaucrat’s room
(power and history in the dark wood)
and a bridge in the distance
(the new one, not the bridge)
and a tram
(from the outside)
and old buildings
(from the outside)
and a coffee shop in a posh hotel
(alas, not from the outside).
Next time, Calcutta
(next time).


Have you no middle ground?
Is it only
sweat or shiver?
Dust or flowers?
Thin cottons or wooly layers?
Lime juice or hot chocolate?


Secure ’twixt your hills
And your own Garden Time -
Indian; but not.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


The clouds here aren’t lonely.
They caress hillsides, embrace trees, play with leaves.
They lounge on the roads, rising lazily to let a car pass
Settling down again even before the tyres go around the corner.
They talk to the flowers, and play with the dogs
       And, I hear, in partnership with campfires,
       Disorient the birds in nearby Jatinga,
       So that tribesmen can club them out of the air.

They laze, cradled like pet cats,
In the laps of high valleys.
Damp with promise, they leave traces of their passage
In the grass, and in the smell of the carpets.
The clouds wander here,
But it’s only me that’s lonely.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Summer Sonnet

Like corporate annual reports,
Odes to summer, are, I confess,
Not among my favourite thoughts;
They’re things I write under duress.
But having decided I would write one,
I sit, sweating, with pursed lips,
Should I make it funny, a light one?
Glib, nonsensical, even—gasp—flip?

(Alas I’m using up the quota
of lines the classic sonnet permits.
I wouldn’t mind if it was shorter.
A full fourteen lines can be the pits.
Only two more lines? What a bummer!)
Oh well. Here’s my poem: I hate summer.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


There’s rent to be paid by the tenth—
It’s done.

And doctors’ bills for ills and chills,
all done.

Deadlines obeyed, dues paid,
yes, done.

Stories told, products sold,
we’re done

Squeezed them out past block and drought,
they’re done.

The yoke of words bespoke -

Free now to write what i want to write but...
i’m done.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Why i didn’t write you a Valentine

i—who can churn out doggerel
at the least excuse—
sit here bargaining with hell
for words that will amuse

you, hold you, keep you,
not make you run.
Light words, singing true,
hiding, underneath the fun,

what i really want to say
but don’t, even though
it’s that day today,
when it’s okay to go

a little goofy, a bit
romantic, and lose
the acquired habit
of reserve, the ruse

i’ve learned of the stiff
upper lip, no matter what.
And i wonder what if
i let go, and, caught

in the moment, told
you in so many words,
that it’s a cold
world, with no birds

singing, no laughter
when you’re not around;
that this word crafter
hates the sounds

of a world without
you in it, and that it,
beyond a doubt,
isn’t a Bad Habit

to want you near,
to hear your voice
in the night, dear
one, that it’s nice

(to understate it a bit)
to look into your eyes
late into the night, and it’s
even nicer to rise

in the morning to the bliss
of those eyes before me.
And if i were to say all this
Would you then abhor me,

run away from those words?
It’s that fear that makes me say,
Today, i have no words,
i have nothing to say.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


They ask me why i’m grouchy,
Why i’m at the end of my tether;
Am i stressed out, maybe? Or ill?
Somewhat under the weather?

You know, that change of season thing;
A cough, a touch of ’flu?
Nah, it’s just too many cigarettes
And a bad case of you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

St Valentine’s day massacre...

…and other bestial tales.

Can i use your heart for my Valentine?
(Signed) Doctor Victor Frankenstein.

Would you mind awfully if should poke a
Little hole in your neck and sip? - B Stoker.

I sit here, holding her hand in mine—
A souvenir from my chopped-up Valentine.

Alas, the hapless porcupine, his heart really bleeds, poor chap.
The quills on his fair valentine turned metaphor into a mishap.

Pity the poor mantis, when he’s in his Valentine’s embrace.
When the lady says Oh God! she’s merely saying grace.

On Valentine’s Day, in the water sport the hippopotami.
It’s the only way to support their entwined anatomy.

Snails are strange creatures; hermaphrodites every one.
On Valentine’s Day, the bastards have twice the fun.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 06, 2005

SMS haiku (for the girl whose phone doesn’t accept multi-part messages)

Choppng my lyf up:
160 character chunks
4 milady’s eyes.

This landed up in DNA on the 17th June, 2006. epaper

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rumination over poetry on a blog, as a deadline goes whooshing by

Who reads poetry?
Other poets, mainly.
(Of varying degrees
Of taste and fame and skill.)

Who reads blogs?
Just bloggers, usually.
(Net-addicted souls
With lots of time to kill.)

So who’s reading this?
Blogging poets only?
(i’d better write ad copy;
Got to pay my internet bill.)

Monday, January 31, 2005


Poetry reveals, you say,
And i raise an eyebrow
(Trying very hard, you see,
To look wise and highbrow).

For your poetry is your cape
My matador fair,
Your verse read, i charge, aflame,
But you’re no longer there.

Poetry reveals, you say,
Yes, i know that’s true.
It tells me lots about me,
And nothing about you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

With or without your words

Your words?
They made me look.
i’ll admit that, no pretenses.

But no,
They’re not the hook.
i’ll take - happily - your silences.

You see,
It’s not the words so warm
That you so deftly spin

It’s where they come from
That wonderful heart within.

When they won’t play,
When tears, not words, glisten,

When you have nothing to say,
i’ll be here, to listen.

jawaab to this
January 2005

Monday, December 13, 2004

Haiku by writer headed for Goa

Squid butter garlic
and kingfish steak afterwards—
honey pancakes for dessert.

Beach, seafood, and beer
And getting paid to go there:
i have good karma.

Published in DNA on the 27th May, 2006. epaper | link

Season has started
Which means more bikini babes.
Travel writing rocks.

Late-rising writer
spots friendly sign at cafe:
Breakfast served all day.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

dusk haiku

It’s that time of the evening.
Past sunset. Past deadlines.
And you’re not here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

You, who are restless tonight

Your heart beats to marching rhythms,
your breath is a travelling song.
Tamed and maimed are synonyms
to you. I knew this all along.

I’ve travelled far myself, you know,
And I know you must wander too.
So I’ll offer you this as you pack and go:
A future rendezvous.

When you’ve done what you must do alone,
And you’re ready for company,
Perhaps we’ll meet at a lone milestone,
And you’ll travel a while with me?

We can walk some roads together,
Perhaps share a meal, or two,
Shelter each other from bad weather,
Or, just for fun, walk through.

And as the miles and the sights go by,
Maybe, then, you’ll see
Not the jailor from whom you fly,
But the fellow traveller in me.

An Attempted Sonnet for A

Did I say I seek to own you?
That I do not know that chains would be hell?
Did I say I want to tame you?
My nomad soul knows wanderlust too well.
I was set free by your wild heart;
Would I wish you predictability?
I would not love you with wings cut,
So go, if you must. You were always free.

What I would give you is sanctuary,
A safe haven, when you tire.
A place to recoup, when you are weary
So that you can fly higher.
Yes, the door’s shut against the wind’s roar
But the lock, dear heart, is this side of the door.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Call me Captain Morpheus

When i was younger
and lived in comic books,
i fantasised about
super strength,
X-ray vision,
wall-climbing abilities,
being able to fly.

Now, i want this super power:
Being able to fall asleep
when i close my eyes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


This side of the wall.
It’s safe, and it’s warm in here.

Though your sirens call
In voices only you hear.

The night is long,
Dark shadows loom.

The fire’s song
Dances in this room.

The night is lonely
Full of hurt and ache.

Even if only
Till the morning breaks.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


My memory is not my friend.

It forgets favourite quotes
And authors’ names
But recalls the way her eyebrows smiled.
It loses track of phone numbers
And conversations
But is imprinted with her embrace.
It lets tax returns deadines slip
And resolutions too
But can quote her emails.
It refuses to hold on to
All that i want it to
And won’t let go of what it should.

My memory is not my friend.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

SMS haiku

always on. always.
if, perchance, there’s no signal
please leave me voicemail.

willng slave 2 U -
& d beep-beep of d fone
that tells me U care.

email is complx
fone calls & lettrs take tym:
i w8 4 yr text.

cellular creature
now part of my D.N.A.
gladden my heart: beep.

(The last poem won first place at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2005, at the literature festival’s SMS poetry contest, which was billed as the first of its kind in the world.)

More about Caferati's SMS poetry contest, which we claimed was actually the first, here.

Both of us were wrong, by the way.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Whatever, dude

As i write it, it is mine
Conceived in passion, born in pain
Imprinted with my D.N.A.
And the idea of she who sired it.

As i edit, it is less mine
It struggles to be free
Torn between purging and art
And the thought of you, who will read it

It is yours now, to use and flavour
With your life, your learnings
Though my name is still at the end
It is mine no longer

Friday, September 24, 2004

Cat literati

Zig jealous, Zig forlorn,
Zig wondering why he born.
Fame passed without knocking
About Zig blog no one is talking.

Bloody Putu cat literati
Going to all the Page Three party.
All are coming to see damn cat,
Scratching ear and giving pat.

Damn billi is media hogging,
Zig thinking, damn this blogging.
Putu discussing publishing terms
Zig going garden to eat worms.

(: A bit of fun in response to the absolutely hilarious Putu's Literary Saga with Happy Ending :)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Shetty in Search of a Muse (: a sonnet for Vijay :)

Brave young Vijay is on a search:
The man would like to find a muse.
The dimunitive headmistress’s birch,
And other forms of spousal abuse,
Laid about with vigour and vim
On all who’d lead the boy astray
Scare me away from helping him,
Even from far off New Bombay.

i would not dare incur her wrath,
’Coz while ’tis true the lady’s tiny
Methinks she would hestitate not
To lay her cane across my heiny.
So, sorry, Vijay, i have things to do, old pal.
This muse search is between you and your gal.

(: Just for fun :)

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Having, reluctantly, concluded
that i am now too old—
we will draw the veil
over questions of ability, please—
to become

an engine driver,
Olympic champion
or matinee idol,


knowing one cannot learn to

carry a tune,
visit new planets,
or be dimpled,


having ticked off:

snowball fight,
river running,
being published,
being on stage,
and dancing,

i look now
to my remaining ambitions.

To climb a mountain,
to swim once in every sea
to start a religion,
to be tough enough
to intimidate my daughters’ admirers,
to write words that you wished you had.

That should keep me busy.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


i have no message for you
if i did, i’d send you mail.
No fresh insights, no causes,
no attempts to change your mind.
i have no influences,
i come from no school,
i’m untutored in style and history,
and know nothing of conventions.
i have not workshopped,
nor been peer-reviewed.
i do not push the boundaries of verse.
Real Poets have nothing to learn from me.

Because i only write of love, of longing,
of losing, of getting older,
of the oh-so-ordinary things i see around me.
i write for myself, it’s true.
But you, you may find some solace here,
at the very least you’ll find
that you’re not alone,
at most, words
for a thought you hadn’t spoken.
More i cannot give.
May it be enough.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

The Literary Valentine

If you will be my Valentine,
i could be your Frankenstein
(yes, i know that it really should be
Dr F’s monster, but us would-be

Poets take liberties all the time
When we struggle to find a rhyme)
Or perhaps this poem could be the better for
A different literary metaphor.

Hm, let’s see, Juliet and Romeo
Ended with way too much gore.
Like too many that i can recall,
It ended with death for one and all.

Could fairy tales provide some laughter
before the inevitable happily ever after?
Beauty and the Beast? Now there’s a thought.
For one, it doesn’t end in nought.

And, because of the way i look,
There’s no chance of offence being took
About who’s the Beast and who’s the Cutie.
Yes, perhaps the tale can be pressed into duty—

But in this age it would never do
To have a lead character who
Abducts the girl, as the Beast, forsooth,
Did. That would be most uncouth.

Alas, this poem is doomed, i think,
A waste of (what’s the cyber version of ink?)
Much better just to give up and say:
Come read with me this Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


i’m through crying,
i’m through with tears.
time to go back
to other fears.
to slowing ageing
to trying not to die
to making a living
to just getting by.
to all those things
that i used to do
in those quiet days
before i found you,
when i liked my life,
my own company,
when it was enough
to just be me.
was wonderful with you,
but now you are gone.
you’ll never come back,
and i must get on.
when you were with me
we laughed and we played;
wish there was still Us,
wish you had stayed,
the laughter’s gone now
the fun is all through
and i must start learning
to live without you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


Words, words, words
they mean nothing to me now.
i’ve had enough of words.
Words are what two minds use to share things
Words are for naming things you feel
Words are for telling you how much i love you
Words are what you can’t find to tell me:
why you don’t love me enough;
why you think we can’t make it together;
why you want not to be with me;
what i need to do to change that.
If i can’t use them there,
i don’t want them any more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Maybe, baby

Maybe they’re right, those friends of mine.
Maybe one day, i will be fine.
Maybe if i let you go,
i’ll find somebody new.
Maybe it isn’t so
Hard to get over you.
Maybe it’s easily done.
Maybe i can do it too.
Maybe i’ll love someone
In a different way than i love you.
Maybe there’s an easy trick -
Maybe it’s closing doors.
Maybe there’s another kind of magic,
That will teach me to do without yours.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

The hypothetical He
who you choose to wait for,
leaving me

Will he know
how to tuck you in?
Will he hold you
as you close your eyes?
Will he know what to say
when a dreamsound wakes you?
When you reach out
from asleep-awake,
will he kiss your hand
and lead you back to sleep?
Will he know
you like to wake up slow?
To speak soft nothing
As the sleeping you lets go?

Saturday, April 12, 2003

walk on

we walked parallel paths
for most of our lives
walked alone, skipping stones,
smelling flowers, breathing sunsets
and then we walked together
and then for the first time i knew
what it meant to walk together
what it meant to walk with you

Blues for X

Took me so long to find you.
Searched so many years.
Now you’ve gone and run away,
And left me with my tears
(oh i’m) lost without you, baby,
         don’t know which way to go.
         lost without you, baby,
         whereever did you go?
Yes there were troubles, baby,
But when i was in your arms,
It wasn’t too much for me,
’Cause i was in your arms.
(that’s why i’m) lost without you, baby,
         don’t know which way to go.
         lost without you, baby,
         can’t fight the world no more.
Was easy with you, baby.
With you standing next to me,
The world was such a lovely place
And so much more to see.
(but now i’m) lost without you, baby,
         don’t know which way to go.
         lost without you, baby,
         don’t want the world no more.
Was blind before i met you,
Then suddenly i could see.
And just as i learned to use my eyes,
You took the light away from me.
(so i’m) lost without you, baby,
         don’t know which way to go.
         lost without you, baby,
         why did you have to go?

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Love poem from an insomniac

This isn’t gonna sound romantic:
But you’re my sedative,
Sleep comes easy, lying next to you.
Those thoughts... that kept me tossing,
That churned my mind all night,
They don’t come, when i’m lying next to you.
Kissing you goodnight,
Knowing you’ll be there in the morning,
Watching you breathe, lying next to you,
Learning is important,
But loving even more so.
i learned that, lying next to you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

She who painted

Put some blue in the sky
A smidgen in your eye
Then do the same for all of me

Thursday, March 01, 2001

Shall we dance?

i know you
you’re the one who’s going to break my heart.
i know you
knew it from the start.
i know you
watched you all the way in.
i know you
now, shall we begin?

Sunday, February 18, 2001

Bachelor Apartment

It’s a mess
Don’t come in
If you’re not going to stay
I’m not going to even try
To be nice
If you’re not going to stay
Had enough of tidying
For visitors
Who don’t stay
I’ll light the fire
And put on some music
If you’re going to stay
I’ll change
And shave
If you’re going to stay
But, please,
Don’t come in
If you’re not going to stay

Monday, February 12, 2001

So you want to read my poems

Fancy seeing you here!
I was just leaving.
But i’ll stay
if it’s me you’ve come to see.
If you’ve just stopped by
to see the paintings
I’ll leave you the keys.
When you let yourself out,
please leave them under the doormat.

Thursday, February 01, 2001

Old diary 2

Old lines
Old loves
Raw words
Raw emotions
Wish i could feel them now
that i know how
to write
and love.

Old diary

Half-remembered laments
For till-now-forgotten loves.
Delicious adolescent pains
And rhymes that tried to make sense of them.
I smile now, and think
I know more words now.
I could handle them much better
With more dexterity, more skill,
..perhaps less spontaneity..
(which may be a good idea).
And i wouldn’t do too badly
with the poems either.

Friday, January 01, 1999


The poems listed under this date were all written over the eighties and (mainly) nineties, but even if I remembered the dates, Blogger doesn't permit pre-dating before January 1999.

Labels: ,

Everything I Know

I know the sun comes up at dawn
And that it sets at dusk
That grass is something you find in a lawn
And elephants get turned on by musk
And I know, I know, that I love you.
I believe that good is its own reward
And that it’s worth it to have ideals
That, yes, there has to be a God
but it isn’t necessary to kneel
And I’m convinced that I love you.
I’m aware that summers get very hot
And that winters are usually cold
That black is black and white is not
But above all I don’t need to be told
I love you.
I’m passionate about snow and rain
And mountains, streams and trees
And bird calls, pine cones, winding country lanes
And wind-lashed stormy seas
But they’re dead without you.
I could spend hours in a moss-covered ruin
Or with a few chosen friends and a glass
Or with a book or a campfire or the moon
Or with a sunset over a mountain pass
But I could spend my whole life with you.

riff 5

Losing you.
That isn’t true.
Never had you.
And now I never will.

riff 3

And then
i found her,
But she,
she wasn’t
looking for me.

’Tis the season... Four riffs on Christmas

Christmas 94, 1

Merry Christmas, they say to me
as they hurry, homeward bound.
I sit like Scrooge in misery
with no one to put my arms around.
Writing mournful poetry,
chin sweeping the ground,
feeling sad for poor ole me,
lying unclaimed in Lost & Found.

Christmas 94, 2

Christmas is like Noah’s ark :
Couples Only or you can’t park.
All you solitary types,
lower your voices as you gripe.
Endure your 40 days of rain,
and excuse as we kiss again.

Christmas 95

This year, I said
i’ll stay in bed
won’t even try
to get ahead
what’s the point
of trying hard
its much safer
to stay on guard

Christmas 96

It’s that time of year

riff 2

There are two things I still like to do
with my eyes closed.
Sit down beside you.
And sleep.

Museum musings 2

Rain odours trickling through blocked sinuses
and there’s hope.
Thunder stage-whispering somewhere
it might happen still.
Feather-light raindrops on sweaty skin
maybe there is a chance.
Fingers of air stroking drooping leaves
and words that shrivel a dream.
Fluorescent carpet of fallen flowers
and a wish that curls up and dies.
Sun setting behind tie-dyed clouds
and grey thoughts.
A choppy sea sensed not seen
and turmoil that just won’t go away.

Museum musings 1

Fluorescent carpet of fallen flowers
and a wilting soul.
Sun setting behind tie-dyed clouds
and words that end a dream.


All week, there’s work to do
Masks to be worn
People demanding your minutes and your hours
There’s coffee to be drunk
And deadlines
I can even work Saturdays
Or drink myself silly and sleep
So many things to keep you away
But Sundays, what do I do with Sundays?


Some you lose
Some you don’t win
Some things end
Some never begin

I found a grey hair in my brush

Back then, I was immortal,
i knew i wouldn’t dye
when all was young about me
no chains, no string, no tie.
But i found a grey hair in my brush
and all is lost, alas
pray don’t jostle, please don’t push
for I am aging fast.


Back then when i was immortal
When i knew i wouldn’t - couldn’t - die
when we were inseparable
when we loved one another, you and i
      (do you remember that far back?)
we were wild. and so amusing
we had it all sorted out
more used to winning than losing
more willing - and able - to shout
      (now we talk in decorous undertones)
you’ve put on weight...i’ve lost some
and some hair as well
no longer pretty, not quite handsome
why exactly, we couldn’t tell
      (how deceptive, these telephones)
outside “our place” it’s warm and bright
but the conversation’s strained
not enough in common to start a fight
it might as well have rained
      (remember those silent walks in the rain?)
i found your jokes not as amusing
and somehow, i couldn’t make you laugh
      (Lots had changed, but then, so have you and i)

Mournful Country Song

Please don’t let me down easy
don’t try making it slow.
If you don’t love me
i wanna know.
Can’t stand the uncertainty
Can’t stand the wait.
Just finish it quickly
It’s not knowing that i hate.
If i have to get over you
i’d better start now
On second thought, maybe,
i don’t want to know.

All together now...

no money
and a deadline.
Why is it
always a


You’re everything I want to be
Do all the things I want to do
I’m consumed with jealousy
For a little while, can’t I be you?

Beach Haiku

A gentle push from the wind
A door creaks
Voices flutter through the trees

For better or verse - Three riffs on marriage


We fought
sitting together on that journey.
The old lady opposite
thought we were married, because
we fought
sitting together on that journey.
They must be married.
See, they’re fighting.


in five years
they’ve run out of things to say
two children
and not much else in common.
if that’s what happens to love
i’m glad i’m still alone.


And a warm meal
And a home loan
And what?

I also ran (and now i’m finished)

To love and lose is noble
All the world loves a lover
Even more so a jilted lover
but what about us poor saps?
The ordinary, ineffectual chaps
who don’t get the girl in the first place?
who were never in the race?
the ones who’re always in second place
or more likely, in third, fourth and seventh place?
No one writes ballads about us
we don’t go down in legend
we just go down the drain.

For M, with a smile

A teddy bear
is always there.
Around somewhere.
Whether or not
You care.
A little threadbare,
a cut, a tear.
Teddy bears
are always there.

Walking Alone

When you walk till it hurts
some of the other hurt goes away.
A little.
Circumventing puddles, navigating rubble
and keeping a sixth sense free for traffic
somehow creates a peace.
Of sorts.
But sometime, you have to stop walking.
You have to stop running

For my future wife, whoever she may be

you’re my strength
and my weakness
my work
and recreation
i live for you
i’d die for you
you move me
and keep me still
i’ve always loved you
i always will

Saturday, December 12, 1998


a hundred words. (my art director... "more than hundred, and it won't fit into the layout.") ...i'm paid to do that. write on demand, just so much, no more, whether or not i want to. which is why all i saw of noon was through the toilet window. i stared absently at the road, rain dampened, sun-warmed. once mills district, now office towers. cars. ties and filofaxes. cellphones. i’d rather be on a beach. or in the mountains... in my head, a noon siren went off. “new ad by lunch? cool. no sweat.” ah well. ah bloody well.

Published online long, long ago in The Noon Quilt, a trAce collaboration. The brief, as far as i recollect, was to look out of your window at noon, wherever in the world you were, and write up to a hundred words about what you saw. The editors then selected contributions which were worked into a virtual quilt. My "patch" in Quilt 1, row 2, column 4, top left - or cheat. A smaller selection from the online Noon Quilt were also pubished in book form somewhere at the very end of the last century, and this contribution made it in.