In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression

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In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression

In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression

100 Thousand Poets for Change is an annual event organised globally where poets come together to exercise their freedom of expression. Old poets are summoned and new poets emerge, as poets call for peace, sustainability and serious social, environmental and political change. On 22nd September, the Bengaluru edition of the global event was organised at Atta Galatta, Koramangala, where over 30 poets from the city writing in Kannada, English, Hindi, and Urdu participated. We bring to you photographs from the event, along with the poems read. Due to the sheer number of poets who participated the event, we decided to publish the poem in sets of two. The next set will be published in the November issue. - Ed.

Nishu Mathur

The Soul of Things Listen more often To the earth, rocks and grass The roots of trees that go deep inside And whisper of the past Listen to the clouds rumble Thunder and heave a sigh As they speak to birds of creation That pirouette in the sky Listen to the whispers of seashells The verses of waves in rhyme That carry the songs of sailors And hum the melodies of time Listen more often To the roses and the wind Listen to the rain and rainbow Listen to the soul of things. ***

Malcolm Carvalho

Lives for lineage A newlywed couple set on fire in a village in Maharashtra. The headline catches me by the throat, Not for long though before I glance at the picture of the young couple. They look happy together even in that still photo. Leaning into each other for a selfie, his smile bordered by a faint sparse moustache, hers by that gleaming nose-ring. Weren’t their eyes not bright enough to outshine the rage of families in the background? Maybe reality did not have enough depth. Perhaps it had too many filters and not enough colour for their laughter to seep through into family. Maybe it was just that were as alike as water and fire. And water and fire cannot live together, let alone love. They belonged to different castes I read. Did that make it easier to strike the match? Did one of the two light up more easily? Did the smell of burning flesh mark out one from the other? I talk about this to my friend at work. He says these rivers of red run deep and wide, even spreading into his state. Friends ganging up on a friend, shedding blood to keep their bloodline clean, to keep the race alive, and not die out with contamination the way they believe the Neanderthals did. If this wasn’t about murder, their beliefs would be funny. I hope one day these rivers will dry out, and the salt left behind will not pile up in walls tall or thick enough to build fortresses, or even if they’re see-through, they will not create lenses with distorted views. For now, fear trumps hope. The fear that one day, there will be so much blood in our streets, in our villages and cities, we won’t be the blue planet anymore. We may not be a planet at all. Maybe there’s hope if we remember the moustache and the nose-ring. ***

Indu Parvathi

Passage Beyond the shadows on glass walls, airplanes melt into night. In the lounge, I read tales of those who flee their lands. Sleep muffled, jaunty phonemes ease into syllables, entwine into soulful songs of loss, in a thousand tongues unknown, rising in wisps from the depths of cavernous valleys in my book. In perpetual passing they weep, while I slumber. Forlorn faces, vacant eyes, lines creeping to treacherous lands, lugging torn bundles of dreams, bedraggled children and old. Bearing crosses, wielding chakras, stars and crescents rattling, they leave arid lands where despots build citadels of smoke. In their world, home is where the heart is not. In the dead of night they wander in circuitous transits, evading eyes. In perpetual passing they weep, while we slumber. ***

Vishakha Khanolkar

I sip my coffee in peace I sip my coffee in peace Flipping through the morning newspaper Govt announces Annual Budget for the year- Page 1 Bangalore celebrates it's 10th La tomatina fest- Page 5 Wife burns herself in kerosene as deceased farmer leaves loan over 5,000- Page 23, 3× 3 cm box, left corner, heading- miscellaneous They say I've been reading too much into it That it's a propaganda of the opposition And intersecting through monorails and bullet trains They tell me that state funds cannot afford loan waivers Flat 30% off @Big Bazaar Buy 1 Get 1 @Big Basket Supermarkets v/s Megamarts Heroes fighting to get you the cheapest carts Against? Starving farmers, silent middlemen, widowed landowners Who's the villain, again? Gotham never asks Fun fact: A potato take 2 weeks to germinate, 3 months to harvest, 10 minutes to cook and 150 kgs of them take 20 seconds to be smashed And as I say this, farmers in Bihar decorate their produce over roads to burn under the sun, squish under cows, smash under trucks To be done something to (than rot in their overstuffed rented garage) The only ‘raise’ they ask for Is to those crops to see the glint of the sun Overproduction is just another side effect of Globalisation, the economist speaks from his velvet cushioned armchair as his stomach aches from the 'well-fed greens’ And don't you try demonise consumerism You, a refurbished product of awaited big billion days and overfilled wishlists There are 570 more people viewing this offer, 70 dealers offering similar deals and 0, out of all paying 'its price’ The bourgeoisie remain till the bourgeoisie gain and you are only a product in their game to sustain And link <> The truth shall always be tamed :) And they peacefully stroll Running their fingers over rows of processed cheese, packaged juice, airlocked chips Scanning their eyes over well lit corn, glistening peppers and spotless carrots lying under eco friendly LEDs and energy saving ACs They scrunch their nose and ask for “organic” Are you looking for something organic? Let me help you with some Here's 20g of hunger strikes of ailing 80 yo farmers from the fields of Tamil Nadu 50g of children dropped out at 4th std to add a lending hand to their father's land from the greens of Madhya Pradesh 0.9 kgs of PILs pending in district courts on zamindar harassments handpicked from Saangli, Chikmangalur, Solapur, And our complimentary With a lifetime membership card of Thank you for choosing our store Please visit again And as They lined scarecrows on their field and sprayed insecticides on their crops And fooled themselves as to who the real predators are Well, modern solutions for modern problems A well wound noose is now enough And we flip our papers as they muffle their screams We swipe up, right and left as they look at the stars for directions And we both tap our feet as we await our own 'Endgames’ Their tears frozen in watermarks on their face Their protests digested in their dysfunctional guts And the biologists publish how human carcass proves better for the soil than HYVs So, save a cremation and water that body, son Your ‘groundwork’ has been laid. ***

Tuhin Bhowal

Meaning “The true meaning, ready to be decoded. What never added up will add up, What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.” —Czesław Miłosz —for J.M. on being asked the meaning of my name at poetry gatherings, and elsewhere Eating each other is the only way we have learnt to love. The last man’s name you garbled love for means peace in Urdu —asylum, refuge; your viscous cannabis breaths still fresh as a cut on my shoulders. In Bombay, he slurped into you like a hungry child luridly sucking out from a shell, his cannibal disquiet agog to mince the coconut. There must have been another man afterwards but how does it matter. A name is an ailment we still keep prescribing analgesics for; I gauged distance between you and peace, which is to say between you and years—in an undignified tongue. Even a decade ago, when I used to sneer Baba, accusing him of naming me after his best friend from college, how he had named his son the same—two years older to me (and fairer) his face would turn bland like a poorly cooked Mexican chicken recipe. He stood out for Tagore at the edge of a poet’s lushest gorge against the winds, I at the contour of your bed against time. He picked up the noun from Shesher Kobita its setting the backdrop of Shillong. Though, he wrote it in Bangalore, he’d rest his case. This city snorts in me now—abandoning home is imperative, after all. That was his decade of denial. My name means white—ultramarine to sound robustly pretentious; my skin a turmeric ebony, my name means thin—the layers almost always invisible over water buoyed by the pressure of my papery weight, my name means brittle—I break easily, as easily as cherry blossoms sprinkle over Sohra, as easily as oil levitates over a denser fluid, as easily as icicles of Laitlum must glitter against the moonshine in Jogeshwari, as easily as it seems that I am falling in love with you. At poetry gatherings, when people ask what my name means, I seldom explain. I do not mention Baba or Tagore. I also do not want to recall if the last man’s name you were in love with means peace when all you did was haunt each other like two apparitions out of a chthonic machine. In the summer of 2018, you said, we will keep cursing monsters lest we begin eating ourselves, and I agreed. There has been nothing more to remember since. When they ask me what my name means now, I freeze my ghastly countenance at the ridge of my grisly throat; I remember you:

—I ask back if they have ever tasted snow.


Anitha Murthy

Recipe for revolution Take two and a half cups of humiliation Peel off self-esteem and chop ego finely Add heaped tablespoons of degradation and insults Melt three sticks of rage and mix with all ingredients Let it simmer… Season with injustice, hopelessness and worthlessness Bring to boil and skim froth off repeatedly Till it is reduced to a thick viscousness that holds its own shape Garnish with generous dollops of fresh blood Serve chilled for revenge is a dish best served cold ***

अभिषेक कुमार झा

उल्का-रोटी मेरे गाँव में मेरे लिए रोटियाँ बनती थीं जो होतीं थीं पतली, नर्म और गर्म। हमारे खेत में जो आदमी हल चलाता था, उसके लिए बनती थीं मोटी और सख्त हमारी वाली को अगर फुल्का कहोगे, तो उनकी वाली को उल्का कह सकते हो। शायद इसीलिए, भगवान ने इंसान के मुंह में लार दिया है कि ज़मींदार सुपाड़ी चूसे, और मज़दूर उल्का-रोटी । ***

फैज़ अकरम

कलम ख़ामोश कर दी है, ज़बाँ ख़ामोश कर देंगे कलम ख़ामोश कर दी है, ज़बाँ ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। नहीं मालूम के किसको कहाँ ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। लगाई है कड़ी हमने सुनो अपनी ज़बानों पे।।। जहाँ पे बोलना होगा वहाँ ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। सुना है बोलने वालों की एक फेहरिश्त आयी है।।। सभी को बारी-बारी से यहाँ ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। सुनो न हम तो आदी हो गए हैं चीख सुनने के।।। मुसलसल इस क़दर अमन-ओ-अमां ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। ज़रुरत आई हो जैसे किसी ऊँची ईमारत की।।। ज़मीन के वास्ते कितने मकाँ ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। मुख़ातिब होके उनसे कह दिया है सब रक़ीबों ने।।। इशारा तो करो तुम मेरी जां, ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। हो हसरत बोलने की फैज़ तो हिजरत करि जाये।।। रहे जो और कुछ दिन तो यहाँ, ख़ामोश कर देंगे।।। ***

Sadhana Subramanian

Holy Hell The trees in the jungle stood silent still, Unmoved by the breeze in the violent valley. She lay there alone against her will, All purple and balck with no one to rally. The bells in the nearby temple chime. Drowning the cries of battered innocence. The caretaker hides a merciless crime, In the name of God and his gory pretense. More wolves were called to devour a child All of eight, their helpless little bait. But to tame her clan, the wolves got wild. In the name of God, they must no longer wait. The valley erupted, stirred not by the little one’s death. But to defend the wolves and their heinous deed. Grown men smothering a child’s wounded breath. Do wolves have a religion, caste or creed? In the land of the powerful, bribes build homes. Stronger than the most strongest of proofs. They get away, as victims fill tome over tomes, With stories of injustice from homes without roofs. Oh Asifa! You’re gone, leaving many a scar. A few horses to graze, many demons to kill. In the skies of Jammu, you’re a twinkling little star. Those dreamy little eyes will stay forever still. While the mightier stay mute, but silence tells. That a country’s raped and a gang walks free, That law-makers and temple-men raise holy hells. Is this what you call a democracy? *** The Leftovers Once it’s all done, When the wreaths have withered The roses and greens have browned Curling its fingers with the earth six feet under And when it no longer smells of young death You let me know Once the ruins are ruined And a way is made for life To pass through like death never came sounding a bugle of darkness Down this street of lamps and light You let me know Once the scars on their faces and hearts Have turned to time, hoping its ticking Will stitch them up and melt into their being Like the one on the hurriedly patched-up wall on that balcony, where wayward birds built nests yesterday Yes, the one that took the first strike and its people You let me know Once the mother’s gone back to sleep On a bed that can barely stand Whose legs couldn’t take the weight of that shell and her grief. In its cracks, lullabies breathe The ones she sang to her little boy Who’s now forever asleep to the raging sound of a 21 gun salute You let me know. You let me know. What can I give them? What can I give them? Two-minute silence? ***

Deva Manohar Manoj

Mother Earth Once a magnificent piece of art Opened her eyes to win kind heart Her frame adorned by rippling lakes And spectacular mountains covered in snowflakes Human footprints from young to very old The animals and birds adding gold I wonder how this art has many smiles And spreads its love million miles But now I fear it will get torn and destroyed Pollution and deforestation, Oh I'm very annoyed I still have hope it stays worth All unconditionally care our Mother Earth *** River In the vast chocolate brown mountains I heard the gushing sounds of water It looked like a mix of purest milk and darkest ink Orange dots of fish flashed in my eyes But later I started seeing green garbage trail Oh no ! the beautiful blue river Will it be taken away from mother nature Better late than never,I promised no goodbyes and hugged her tight. ***

Shreyas Ernest

I am Gandhi I am the barefoot boy, I wear rugged clothes and I’m dirty, I am Gandhi I am a Harijan, I am an untouchable, I am Gandhi I am the “half-naked fakir”, I am Gandhi I am the mighty Ganges, I am the Himalayas, I am the Brahmaputra, I am Gandhi I am the victim of patriarchy, I am the sick, I am Gandhi I am the thousand languages spoken on this land, I’m the native tongue, I am Gandhi I am the smell of flowers and the sound of prayer bells, I am Gandhi I am the girl who refused to pay dowry, I am Gandhi I am the farmer, I till the soil, I sow the seeds, I am Gandhi I am the gentle old woman, I am Gandhi I am the colours of this country, I am Gandhi I am the tribal, I’m called “savage”, I am Gandhi I am the oppressed, I am the suffocated, I am Gandhi I am the widowed woman, I am a social outcast, I am Gandhi I am the sacred forests, I am the fertile land, I am Gandhi I won many wars yet I killed no one, I am Gandhi I am the truth, I am non-violence, I am the soul of this land, I am Gandhi I am purity, I am peace, I am serenity, I am only way forward, I am Gandhi I am the man they shot, my ideas they try to kill, they say all I did was nothing, yet I am the truth I am India, I am Gandhi. ***

Chandrama Deshmukh

I cannot write about poverty I cannot write about poverty to me it is not more than an over-used term that flashes on TV screens, newspapers and billboards on my way to work. I have written 137 poems about moon, melodies and magic but when you asked me to word an empty stomach the syllables formed thick clots refusing to move. Poor babies, my words! So I won’t talk about poverty today I will tell you instead about this little girl I met the other day caramel brown skin, wavy hair loosely tied in a bun - A dream-catcher in one hand and 4 balloons in one! she gave me a rehearsed smile and said my dreams will come true my dreamcatcher matches with your dress, look! they’re both blue. I bought her dream, the blue one she giggled and turned back and then pulled out another right out of her sack! Who weaves these dreams I asked her how many do you sell in a day Oh! we buy it in bulk from a vendor I sell a lot, but the brute doesn’t pay She told me about her brother who left home and never came back and when I asked how old are you she said she has lost track I really want to write about poverty I promise you, I tried but the blue dream-catcher lurks in my thoughts and stares at me greedy-eyed These little girls on streets who have lost the track of time are frozen in this poem my empty, incomplete rhyme Let’s shoo them away, and roll up windows or they will tell you their brutal tale and you will never be able to write another poem when you realize, how you fail. ***

Anita Singh

Perception Caught between your perception of justice and injustice, A man was lynched to death for his eating habits; Caught between your perception of truth and lies, An activist was murdered in broad daylight; Caught between your perception of right and wrong, Two-and-a-half years later, a helpless mother still looks for her son; Caught beween your perception of lowly and high, A brilliant student chose to end his life; Caught between your perception of law and anarchy, A man was attacked and labeled terrorist; Caught between your perception of patriot and anti-national, A citizen was arrested and charged with treason; Caught between your perception of fact and fables, History is being rewritten just to turn tables; Caught between your perception of tolerance and intolerance, A nation is baying for the blood of innocents. *** Chotu A pencil never held between those fingers; A school bag never been carried on those shoulders; No abode for dreams in those eyes; No occasion for those lips to curl into a smile! His tender age epitomizes weakness; His circumstances are fraught with helplessness; Our paths may have crossed time and again; That 'Chotu' who serves us food at the 'dhaba', And sometimes cleans our soiled utensils; That 'Chotu' we may have given ten bucks to As a token of appreciation; That 'Chotu' who sells tea at railway stations; And may have even polished our shoes; That 'Chotu' who sells toys at traffic signals, At other times may have washed our cars too! In his heart he asks each one of us, That night when he was fast asleep, Who tip-toed into his life unannounced? And slyly from underneath his pillow, Stole his dreams; Then stole his happiness; And finally robbed him of his childhood! A monstrous laugh then woke him up! A dark shadow hurriedly ran past the door; It vanished before he could even Set his foot onto the floor! Was it you? Or was it me? Behind this terrible tragedy! For those hands are now covered in blisters; And hardships weigh down those shoulders; Weary eyes seek answers to a string of questions; A frown has left those lips permanently disfigured! ***

Rituparna Maji

Not a failure yet The air quality index pole vaults to its peak, as a zillion cars lock horns, singly occupied, bumper to bumper, 24/7, ‘tis the jostle to survive the race of the ‘IT’ rats! Branches of big trees stop kissing each other, despite reassuring hugs by a handful humans, alas, their fate is sealed by a cheap license to fell, as ridiculously cheap as the price of a movie ticket! Storm water drains face premature burial, their death scripted by the greed to encroach, the city now struggles to stay afloat even in a drizzle, only to ignite the blame game antics of the bureaucrats! Braveheart cyclists try to usher change, balancing traffic and potholes, their cycles the least! alas, lane segregation is sabotaged, by the vicious might of metro construction Outside Government offices, helpless citizens ponder: ‘How much to pay? And to how many?’ illegal underhand dealings, yet so perfectly standardized, it could even put McDonald’s to shame! Courts intervene to distribute a river’s water, mafias mark territories on water sources and distribution, between droughts and farmer suicides, a city slowly slips into the trauma of an evacuation Yes, we are dying, but no, we are not a failure yet, dare not judge us to be a failure, till you see us join the dinosaurs *** Spoliation Perturbed, squab asks tree, “Will you be there tomorrow?” I wince, axe in hand *** Photography : Sonali Bhatia
Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review : ‘In Bronxville, I meet a banana tree’ : Six poems by Devi Sastry ‘And we smelt like guavas’ : Five poems by Nilim Kumar ‘You may see the city slowing down’ : Five poems by Malcolm Carvalho  

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