In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression : Part 2

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In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression : Part 2

In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression : Part 2

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. In the October issue, we brought to you the first set of the photographs and poems from the event. As promised, we bring to you the second and final set of poems read at the event in the November issue. – Ed.

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

The Moringa Knows In hindsight, the Moringa knows- It always knew how you’ve felt. From the moment your hands touch the skin, to the part where the leaves get torn, smelled at, and ground into fine paste for medicine and vitamins unknown- the Moringa knows. From nights where, the wind was strong from when the lights had dimmed and the stars visible for a change, the Moringa knew, that come morning- the hands would prey again. In the beginning the touch would be tender, and the care somewhat genuine - to what a plant really feels. But memory is a short summer, and the flowers here, too small. And so, the Moringa learns of distance. Each morning the leaves shift, a little away- till the time, your Moringa is no longer yours. The neighbours have reach of her, they now caress and breathe her- where you once did. When exactly she slipped out of your comfort and found new hands, you barely know- And since when was the Moringa a woman, You ask? Since the time She learnt to move away, not to show, how she hurt but move away, remain silent and become another’s, and still away, still wary and still detached. In an apartment complex every balcony stands alone, clothes talk to each other- I’m an old petticoat, will be discarded soon - and so the conversation goes. Here, leaves aren’t exactly admired, nor scorned, just tolerated. Today they moved away- away from the relentless queries typed into- Health benefits of a Moringa, how to use a Moringa, how to get the best out of Moringa..and then some. Her leaves are at last free- no bird sits here now, no medicine man in waiting, touches her leaves, She’s free to turn yellow at will, to shed and become non-existent. The Moringa has moved away- this the Moringa knows. *** How to grow a Rhododendron? First, right the spelling. The spell check comes up with bizzare options that you don’t recognize from the colours of the flower. The Rhododendron is often red, also pink and lilac you’re told- A singer I knew once tried to eat them, and grow into that colour, in his songs. You blow on the back of the flower, the delicate pink ready to melt into your mouth- But you taste with the heart, always the heart nothing gets forgotten in the heart and memory here is forever. So, when you leave the hills of rhododendron find some seeds and water it with care- wait now, by growing old and turning pink-in rhododendron language. And if you don’t see a flower still- Understand, that like you, its heart is lost, the language of dreams long forgotten and colours complicated somehow. Like you, the flower remembers the smell of the mountains, it dwindles in your dreamless, freedom-less little balcony in Koramangala- The scents are not the same here, the grass isn’t as green, the gardener must have forgotten to water the seed- you tell yourself. But what would you do of memory- that kiss of the clouds, the flower never forgot? The smell of slow, you somehow forgot. You realise then, that cross pollination is a disease, it screams of the lack of science. and psychedelic chlorophyll nights are where plants are happy and doped. The way you touch the flower, kiss the plant and eat the red- is everything- Don’t let that memory go, turn it into your reclamation song! Go grow your rhododendron in the spring, in some village buried beyond. But spell check for the spelling, get it right first and then sow your seeds, in Rhododendron colours of the hills. ***

Vishnu Pathak

तैरने वाला समाज डूब रहा है पहले मछलियाँ गयीं फिर पानी गया फिर टमाटर, ककड़ी, तरबूज और खरबूजा फिर हमने मछुआरों के लिए तलाशे नये रोज़गार कहा नदी किनारे बालू के टीले बनाओ मोहन जोदड़ो के सिटॅडेल से उँचे और भूमिहीन किसानों से कहा ढाह दो इन मृत आत्माओं के टिलों को समतल ज़मीन के लिए और भर दो सारा रेत क़तारों मे खड़ी ट्रकों के भीतर प्रारम्भ हुआ नदी की हत्या का षड्यंत्र सरकंडे के जंगल के बीच वह सड़क जो नदी किनारे तक आती है उनमे हडप्पा के दीवारों के इटों की बुनाई है जो सिर्फ़ ले जाने की मानसिकता समझती हैं ठीक उनकी तरह जो ले गये सब कुछ सभ्य होना, अपनी सभ्यताओं से नहीं बल्कि उनके लुटेरों से सीखा है हमने इतिहासकार गिद्ध हैं जो आएँगे हमेशा की तरह सभ्यता के अंत के बाद पोस्टमार्टम के लिए नदी अब खेल का मैदान है मछुआरों के बच्चों के लिए जिन्हे तैरना कभी नहीं आएगा तैरने वाला समाज डूब रहा है रेत के टिलों के मध्य। *** सोन नदी से... तुम सुखाते रहे अपने किनारों पर सफेद साड़ियाँ सवर्ण और हरिजन से पहले विधवा कही जाने वाली औरतों की रात भर सन्नाटों से लड़ते रहे रोते हुए सियार तुम्हारे दोनो किनारों पर भूखे पेट खेलते रहे मल्लाहों के बच्चे बरसात के इंतजार में खड़ी नावों पर पाश का चाँद चढ़ता रहा तुम्हारे दियारों के उपर हर हत्या कांड के बाद लाल टमाटर और सलाम दोनों विषाक्त हो गए बिन पानी और बेईमानी से खाली हो गये गाँव खलिहान आत्म हत्या करते रहे किसान और खोखली होती रही सरकारें दिन प्रति दिन सरकंडे का जंगल बढ़ता रहा तुम्हारी छाती के ऊपर और तुम रोये नहीं? ***

Srividya Srinivasan

Weep softly O mother Weep softly O mother, the walls have ears you know... The streets are awash o mother! I cannot go searching for him anymore. The streets are awash o mother with blood and tears, pellets and screams. that silently remain locked in the air, while they seal our soulless dreams. The guns are out, O mother, while our boys go armed with stones, I cannot go looking for him O mother, I have no courage to face what I will find. For, I need to tend to this little one beside, with bound eyes that see no more. They fill the air O mother, The fragrance of plastic flowers I will place them too beside your grave if I ever do survive, flowers that have no soul. and would never fade with time. The sun shines glorious O mother The water sparkles so fine The buds are closed in terror and birds have gone silent with fear There is poison in our heaven O mother I dread for what more is in store. They came for him O mother, yesterday as you slept inside, He went marching O mother with all the others beside. I never told you O mother, that I do not know if he will ever return. They may have given him guns, or they may have given him stones, you and I will never know, until they come for him like before. The streets are awash O mother! I cannot go searching for him anymore. One night as I lay in his arms he said, he wants to fight no more. And, yet in the morning, he was gone to join the battle once more. Just for a second, he said, he saw pain on the soldier’s face, but in a thrice, he said it was gone, and he felt the war once more. Weep softly o mother, the walls have ears you know... If your old blind eyes can see, You will want to see again no more. Our men have lost their spirit Our women have lost their smile, Our children have lost their laughter, The valley has lost its shine, Weep softly O mother for, we still have our pride. Pain breeds more pain, as you know O mother. I fear that our boys and men will blow themselves up, as we run out of stones to throw. More shall take their place, as more shall die, with no medals on their chest, no war wounds, fuelled by the dull anger deadened by our pain, brothers no more. What is right, and what is wrong, our minds now know no more, this ache, this ache will never leave us O mother, until we are all no more. The streets are awash O mother! I cannot go searching for him anymore. And soon, like you Will I be, neither here nor there, merely a half-widow. -- Weep for the home we lost O mother, Weep for the valley we left behind, the hills that once bore our names, where shoulder to shoulder, we walked the vales, proud of our heritage. Hunted out of our very homes, flying like thieves in the night, abandoning it all, fearful for the lives of our men, fearful of our being raped, our children killed, Kafirs they called us O mother, they marked our homes to kill. We now haunt the streets of other cities, refugees in a country we call our own, belonging nowhere, feeling homeless without the land we once called home. -- Weep loudly O mother, for the nation hears our pain. As the fresh flag moulds his cold body, I know his sacrifice was not in vain. We need to put our chins up, O mother and face this moment with pride. I shall wear on my chest the weight of the medal, where once the weight of his love I bore, The nation shall remember his tale of valour, as he looks on at us from above … Weep loudly O mother, as I whisper something into your ears. Weep as I tell you what he spoke, in the darkness, before you awoke. About the men who cross our borders, and boys with broken dreams, who throw stones at him as he passes by, and weeping women he must ignore. By the light of the day, he hardens his heart, by the burning sun, he steels his resolve. He needs to fight this ugly war, shoulder to shoulder, where brother fights brother, all numb to pain. Where victory is a child blinded, and a gun silences a joke in mid-air. He deals with death every day O mother, and comes home to us to stay alive. We are his meaning, O mother, the reason behind his smile. For, he must be hard on the outside, while we keep his softness alive. And, now he is gone, O mother, blown to bits just like the boy that died. Weep loudly O mother, Yet, make no sound outside. For, just like the mothers on the other side, the aching women who miss their men, and the children with listless eyes, You and I must arise from this pain, ready to give once more. The glory of death, O mother, is greater from our side. The nation and the world, shall honour his end, unlike the other side. When he last came here O mother, he spoke of the icy mountains, he spoke of its blessed air, of pink-cheeked children, red-lipped women, handsome men, winding roads that he goes by. Barbed fences, plastic flowers unmarked graves galore. He talked of how amidst it all, how he felt alone. I feel he hated to fight O mother, and yet, I know he was so brave. He started to talk of how he could die, I hushed him willing to hear no more. We filled the night with our love and longing, dreading the time for him to go. And, now he is gone forever, O mother, leaving his child behind, We shall long for his footsteps O mother, and his laugh that we will hear no more. We shall learn to sleep someday, O mother, You and I, Missing him every moment of our lives, yet ready to live unafraid. We will have to go on O mother, proud we have the whole nation beside. He said he did not believe in war, and that is why he fought so hard. Strange as it might sound O mother, I think I know his heart and mind. That, he fought the many wars within, the hard and the soft, the right and the wrong, and he fought, for he knew he was fighting the right side. We know there are wailing mothers and wives on the other side, listless children, men with hardened hearts and steely resolve. Just like ours. That, with every wound on either side, there shall be wounds again both sides ten-fold. The scent of the flowers fills the air O mother, the flame from the candles rise high. A billion hearts mourn with us, O mother, as we grieve inside. I, a widow, And, you a mother. Dry up your tears O mother, for our men have not lost their spirit Our women have not lost their smiles, Our children have not lost their laughter, The valley has not yet lost its shine, Weep no more O mother For, we shall wear our pride. And, I hope for a day when our men and boys come back alive. For blood is blood, and pain is pain, and death is final, The false story we must tell ourselves is that we are always the right side, and forget the pain we inflict on the other side. Until it all stops, it must go on, the dry tears on either side, Every war and battle is within and without, and must claim its wounds and leave its scars, And, if we need to go on O mother, it matters we feel we are on the right side. We need to tell ourselves we are always the right sight... We need to repeat it a million times, We are always the right side... For god forbid, what if we were not? ***

Grace Sitharaman

A loud whisper with large wings My parents would say – ‘When will you grow up?’ Yes, I wished to grow up with pride, Even when people joked at my bleeding behind. My blood for me is what what I should shed, With no aggression or violence with dignity instead. This is a woman’s privilege - to bleed, In her body; in her system she carries a seed. A young girl writhers in pain as she grows up. Every month for 5 good days her blessings unleashed. Let her be , leave her to bleed in peace ! Let not mothers, grandmothers, mothers in law Drive us insane with blood stained prejudice. With stories of Odor and Stained luck, Bullshit and crap weighing heavy those days. Instead raise their son’s to honour these ‘Bloody days.’ ‘Stay Free ‘ and not ‘Whisper’ dear boys, If you are well bred and wish to see more joys, Empathize with a Woman during her days of pain- Be it your mom, sister, girlfriends or wife. This is not a story to hide … but a LOUD ‘WHISPER WITH LARGE WINGS’! ***

Punnia Viswan

I feel Woman It’s not my dress that defines my womanhood Not my age or my hair Neither my heels nor the lipstick I wear Not even the way I walk the ramps I feel woman I feel woman The inherent kindness And the thought of being wanted The empathy that feels the pain of a fellow being And the want to be protected The forbearance and patience And the wish to be loved The immense strength that gives birth to a baby And the desire to be adored The myriad thoughts that try to equate you and me and everything And the envious way I look at my man’s ladies friends I feel woman I feel woman The cramps of the monthly cycle The stretch marks The taste of that breastfed milk The sleepless nights I brought you up And that night I wailed and groaned when I got you aborted I feel woman I feel woman The choices I make When I am at stake The decisions I take When I flake I feel woman I feel woman I am woman When I am strong and when I am weak When I laugh and when I cry When I feel indifferent When I am molested and when I am pampered When I am a virgin and when I am a lewd I feel woman I feel woman It’s not my dress that defines my womanhood Not my age or my hair Neither my heels nor the lipstick I wear Not even the way I walk the ramps But this crazy thought that I penned *** She Man I am a born man I call myself Ann. Being in the delusion I carried the hidden fear of exclusion. With the power of Hercules And the virginity of Artemis. I must have been proud being a hermaphrodite Carrying the blood of Aphrodite. But, the so-called civilian society calls me a worm Who must live on the earth as a dung worm. Feeding the venom of alienation Punishing myself for an unknown mutation! Think once, twice or thrice Have you ever been this wise? Knowing I am also a being Not a mere one, but a beautifully carved living being. If you think otherwise, You prove me you are vice. But, I am beyond you, know man I am She Man. ***

Reshma Kakunje

लोग कहते हैं मैं बात बहुत करती हूँ लोग कहते हैं मैं बात बहुत करती हूँ आते जाते लोगों से भी उनकी खैरियत पूछा करती हूँ कभी मेरे सारे पैसे फोन पे ही खर्च होते थे रात को रेलगाड़ी में मिले अजनबी भी सुबह तक दोस्त होते थे घर पे होती तो मा बोलती, "कितना बक बक करती है? कभी चुप भी रहा करो!" आज भाई बोलता है, "आपके बिना घर सुनसान है, आप घर पे ज़्यादा रहा करो" ये मत सोचिये की एकाकी में अकेलापन महसूस होता है कोई ना हो साथ में तो भी मुझको अफसोस नही होता है कभी तज़वीर, कभी अपनी गुड़िया, खाना बनाते सब्ज़ियों से भी बातें करती हूँ आखिर इंसान साथ हो तो ज़रूरी क्या है की वो मेरी सुने, मैं बातो की बाल्टियां जो भर लेती हूँ बातूनी होने के फायदे बहुत हैं - दोस्त चाहते बेहद हैं गलत फहमियां भी कम होती है बात से मन भी बहल जाता है जब भी कोई गम होती है घर में जब मेहमान आये, तो उनको खामोशी नही खाती, आपके ना होने से, लोगो को आपकी याद ज़्यादा है आती मगर अब ये गलत फहमी मत पालिये की सब बातूनियो को पसंद करते हैं "ये चुप कब होगी यार?!" लोग ये भी कहा करते हैं "ज़बान से ज्यादा कानो का इस्तेमाल करो" "अरे बेटा, सोच समझ के ही बोला करो" "मुह खोलने से पहले तुम हमेशा सोचा करो" "इतना बक बक करती हो, कभी अपने बुद्धि को भी करोचा करो" अब लोगों को भी कौन समझाये, मैं बक बक करते ही सोचती हूँ कोशिश तो बहुत की है, खामोशी अपनाने की संस्कारी हूँ, तो ज़ाहिर है, मैं सबकी ही सुनती हूँ मैं करूं भी क्या, मुह बंद करूं तो साथ ही साथ दिमाग पे ताला पड़ता है हार ही जाती है खामोशी, जब उसका मुझसे पाला पड़ता है सोचने को जब दिमाग खोलूँ तो मुह भी साथ ही खुलता है "... अब ये किससे पूछूं आर्गेनिक केमिस्ट्री का किताब कहाँ मिलता है" रसोई से भी पूछती हूँ, "अब ये चीनी कहाँ होगा?" जासूसी फिल्मे देखके चिल्लाती हूँ, "मुझे पता था खूनी यही होगा" किताबे पड़ते पड़ते मैं उनके किरदारों से भी बाते करती हूँ कभी कभी तो बस में बैठे भी ये हुआ है, फिर सबसे आंखें मिलाने से डरती हूँ अपने आप के साथ ही अंताक्षरी मैंने खेला है आपको अब क्या बताऊं बातूनी होने की वजह से क्या क्या मैन झेला है? मुझे ना कोई गंभीरता से नही लेता खामोशी को लोग बुध्दिमानी का जो नाम देते हैं "कितना सहमा सा रहता है, कोई वैज्ञानिक होगा" कहते हैं "ज़्यादा मौन ही रहता है, ये बंदा बहुत सोचता होगा" मानती हूँ, चुप रहने वालों की समस्या मैं नही जानती "अरे इतना कम क्यों बोलती हो?" ये उनसे भी कोई पूछता होगा लोगो को सुंदर, सुशील, सहमी लड़कियों से बड़ा लगाव है समाज में, अपने विचार व्यक्त करने पे हमेशा ही पढ़ाव है "लड़कियों को चुप रहना शोभा देता है" सरस्वती जैसे खामोशी की ही देवता है "बड़ी संस्कारी है, देखा नही कितनी चुपचाप और प्यारी है' "और ये है की इतना बक बक करती है" "मुझे लगता है, बुरी बातें करके कान ये सबकी भरती है" "बड़ो के उपस्थिति से कोई लिहाज़ नही, बड़ों के सामने आदर होनी चाहिए, तेरी आवाज़ नही" मुझे गलत मत समझिये कम बोलने वालों से मुझे कोई शिकायत नही मेरा सवाल सिर्फ इतना है- क्या मुझे मेरे मन की बोलने की इजाज़त नही? गलती मैं ज़रूर मानूंगी अगर मेरी बातों से किसी की ठेस पहुंचे मेरी विचारधारा, या साधा बातचीत नही कानो तक सिर्फ अगर आदेश पहुंचे लेकिन मै कहाँ अपना हुकूमत जमाना चाहती हूँ? मैं बात इसलिए करती हूँ क्योंकि मैं अपना विचार व्यक्त करना चाहती हूँ मन को कोई गम खा रहा हो तो बातें करके मन बहल जाता है बात करती हूँ तो मुझे समझना सरल हो जाता है लफ्ज़ मेरी सखियाँ हैं और भाषा ही मेरा यार है सन्नाटा नही, आवाज़ की प्यासी हूँ मुझे बातों से प्यार है । ***

Renita D'souza

<> Mental Health : A Conversation I was 19 when I first told my mother I wanted to go to therapy but all she did was laugh at the very idea because she believed mental health problems did not exist and that it was all in my head but mom, this depression isn't in my head, it's everywhere, it's like a kraken rearing out of the ocean and I am nothing more than a small broken-down boat that wandered a little too far into the ocean and the ocean is my mind and I can't handle its rage, I can't control this boat in a thunderstorm, all I can do is watch the ocean pull me further from shore and I am not the ocean, I am the boat, I am only a visitor in my own head and I'm too torn-down to handle anything this destructive, some days my boat is a yacht and some days it is a raft, mom I know exactly how many pills there are in your medicine cabinet and exactly how many it would take to put this beast down and some nights I try to cut this creature's hold from out of my veins with dad's razor blades and that's why I wear long sleeves all the time, I can't handle looking at my failures and maybe that's why I don't like looking into mirrors but mom some days I'm friends with this monster, it doesn't hide under my bed, it IS my bed, this monster is where I put myself to rest every night, mom, but it's not just us here, there's anxiety sleeping over most nights too and anxiety isn't a raging beast, he is a teenage boy who wears shirts that have outdated bands on them and he makes me want to puke but I'm cornered with the inability to open my mouth so I'm left choking on my own vomit because I've forgotten how to part my lips even though the first thing I ever did in this world was open and fold my goddamn mouth into a scream but mom I don't know how to make sounds anymore so when anxiety visits, I sit with him in a corner of my room that isn't occupied by the kraken and shut my mouth and choke- anxiety has a voice sharp enough to cut into my bones and make me feel like my body is melting into his arms, he reminds me of the man who once pulled me upstairs to hold me in his hands and his grip was just as suffocating and my legs still hurt and my belly still carries the imprint of his hands and my mouth still remembers his taste, and whenever it feels like I'm choking, it reminds me of that man pushing himself down my throat, I think that is when I started to lose the ability to speak, my mouth was forever sealed, my lips stitched tight and most nights I can't sleep because of the silence ringing in my ears and the screaming in my head and mom, there's another uninvited guest in my room and she bunks here every night and they call her insomnia but she doesn't answer to that name, she's just a little girl in pigtails who's too scared of the thunderstorm in my head to fall asleep so she keeps me awake too, mom, I've spent so many nights trying to rest but I can't, I keep counting pills instead of sheep, writing my eulogy instead of reading a bedtime story, listening to anxiety breathe down my neck instead of playing your lullaby on repeat, mom, I think I've forgotten how to shut my eyes too, so when I can't sleep I think of Vincent Van Gogh who swallowed yellow paint and cut off his ear to give away in affection, mom, I drink old red wine and paint with my blood and my tears and cut out parts of myself and give them away to boys like I'm running a free garage sale, and I wonder when I'll run out of body parts, all I have left now is this defective heart that pounds too loud and too fast but no one wants it, mom, most nights my mind is an ugly landscape, a thunderstorm I can't escape but sometimes it lets me skinny-dip in its waves so on those nights I sleep curled up on top of my kraken with a teenager and a child on either side of me and I hold them tight like they're old lovers that I'm scared of losing again, mom, these nights I'm terrified of letting them go because I don't know who I am without them, these nights are when I realise they're the only parts of me I can count on to stick around, these nights are when I realise they aren't visitors, they ARE ME but mom, how do I tell you any of this if you still believe it's all just in my head? ***

Devi Sastry

Speak Speak. Just speak. Find the words and let them fall onto the ears of the world, speak. Say, “you look beautiful today.” Talk about big oil companies and how you're worried about the environment Tell that person that you love them Speak about your day, talk about how your mental illness is ruining your life and that your pills aren’t working, or they are talk about the state of the economy but just speak use the tools that God? Evolution? - has given you, and speak. Speak because you know that distant dystopia we read about in novels? We’re living it, and I can say this I can say this because people are still killing each other over personal choices, Children are trapped in camps, Women and men are held to different standards, Rape is still rampant and people are ridiculed when they try to talk about it, There are teenagers who would rather jump off a building than struggle through a system that sets them up to fail I can say this because of racism and fascism and Neo-Nazism and everything that isn’t what we need today, I can say this because of whitewashed world news, because our country celebrates becoming a colonizer because girls are afraid to be associated with feminism and everything people think it means because people speak without thinking but what else are they to do? We aren’t going to solve anything by trapping shattered mindsets within the walls of our brains we have to speak We’re not Jedis We can’t use the force to control the actions of the weak-minded No, we’re not wizards who can magic away the panic at the flick of a wand We’re not supernatural, we’re humans And humanity isn’t going to solve anything using their heads without their tongues so speak. Speak because we have a media that monetizes madness, and people wishing for wars because they don’t know how haunting it is for those who live to tell the tale, we have juries that are afraid to give verdicts against people in power, and people listing out the pros of pollution because they’re too afraid to admit that they’re not solving the problem, well so am I. I am afraid Of not only voicing, but of having an opinion, of sharing it and having people disagree, or even agree afraid of people not liking it, not liking me I’m afraid of people, I’m afraid of society. Society? What is this canopy term on which we blame everything backward and wrong with our mindsets? Who is this mysterious society? The government? Your best friend? Social circle? The police? Your parents, who mean well, but don’t always know best, and I can say this I can say this because I’d rather offend “society” than offend myself Is it the aunties and uncles who cackle over coffee and talk about how they’re sending their kids to schools they don’t even like, to prepare for jobs they won’t even enjoy, all to please someone who won’t even be there to see the repercussions of a failed career and lost time? Or is society this construct we’ve convinced ourselves to believe in, because we think someone, somewhere might bother about the thoughts running around our heads, and of course we want this invisible “someone” to like us, so we try to conform to their supposed mental blocks while really, blocking the voice of our heart, Listen to it, let it speak! Let it speak Because I want to live in a world where I can be unafraid of questioning I want to live in a world where I can talk about politics, and my view won’t be written off because I’m young, or a girl, or anything else that makes me “wrong” A world where people aren’t policed for their choices Where a person can call themselves “they” without strange stares going their way and false grammar coming in to “correct” their identity A world where I can enjoy the summer sun on my skin without worrying if I’m showing too much of it A world where I can be light or dark skinned and still be the same kind of beautiful A world where a beautiful woman can commit to her career not get married, not have kids and still be accepted Accept it You don’t have to like the ideas we propagate and wonder how things got to such a bad state Just accept the reality of the change because it’s coming It’s here We’re making it happen This is us speaking and we are not afraid because whether the government society elders, youngers, in-betweens condone or condemn us We are beautiful We are indestructible Because we aren’t people anymore We’re concepts spreading ourselves across the world, we’re ideas and we made this transition from human to something more, when we decided to open our minds open our hearts open our mouths and speak. ***

Shanzah Ahmad

Don't Pocket My Rights Pockets have always Played a game of hide and seek A game of gender politics With the possibility of equality Appearing bleak You rob us of pockets To keep the wealth in your hand A shrewd move by Patriarchy Keeping the power structure intact The Purse was your child A mere miniscule reticule Keeping our hands occupied With little purpose or use Then you faked pockets Like candy offered to a crying child Little did you know That our anger wasn't mild So don't pocket my rights All I ask for is equality For us to stand at par And for me to walk free. ***

Pallavi Huilgol

Mushy Mangroves of Mahim On the muddy shores of Mithi and rusty creeks of Mahim I once flourished creepy and plucking on the petals of panache waiting eagerly for the monsoon moon to smile on the tides and shores of… Amchi Mumbai Year after year and mile after mile. Alongside was the limit less July sky Who witnessed one happy face That blush of shy I am the mushy mangrove of the facile waters Along the cluttered coasts of Mumbai Those were the days of good and old In the city of shine and shimmer Not many people on the city roads Not much water to fail the harbour Regular spills of rain on the rails Fishermen of koli tribe worshipped The waters of mithi as they happily set their sails Once again monsoon moon smiled as I kept flourishing in those muddy facile waters now the bygone era smiles at me now the bygone era smiles at me only in the memories of sunset at sea shores only in the silver stud photos… That walks you through The mossy mushy memory lane!!! Silently Crawls The Mushy Mangrove of Mahim Alas Alas Alas! Where are the green city parks of Amchi Mumbai now? Old highways have it to new sky scraping highways And people too dwell in a satirical street A street that is made of buildings and concrete A street made of over-tarred roads with more potholes A street full of people busting in chaos camouflaging To the beats of a honking sounds and hues of the traffic light A street full of children who dwell in the nearby garbage dump With less place to sleep ,read , play or jump For the city is more of trash and less of tan and twigs And there is less water in the storage hand pump A street where the old, the young have less of Fresh air to breathe and follow For there is more chemical baggage around To smell, eat and drink And the children newly born or yet to be born, Have to push and pump and swallow. And every monsoon moon year after year Is losing its shimmer and is getting dimmer As the high tides in the rain get more awry Amchi Mumbai faces flood flurry Traffic jams on roads and rails get bigger and bigger, People stuck for days and nights in the downpour Seems like there is no happy hour Blaming them for sewage system and power blackouts Putting tags and hash tags to the government systems On twitter and instagram handles City somehow limping boots up ,from the dilemma of the downpour And the flurry smiling and teasing, slowly dwindles As if nature’s flurry confronts us and asks us All that has been, has been and enough For how long are we all going to allow I am Mother Nature please listen Don't delete and deplete my trees and forests In the name of high-tech upgrades and automation Don't erase the necklace of mushy mangrove Alongside my once green sea shores It is my amulet against disgrace and calamity Please go green and plant trees For children to play, let there be bees Listen to the chirruping of birds And to humming of bees Listen to the panther spotted in city schools And to the hissing of snake around your backyard That they are not a specimen in the zoo to be That this is our home and yours and theirs So open your eyes and hearts and doors in green To a new world for children and old To a new world for people with paws and claws For the planet earth belongs to all of us For the planet earth belongs to all of us ***

Nityanand Rai

प्रश्नों की खेती बेटी कुंजुम तुम उत्तरों के बाज़ार में प्रश्नों की खेती करना कोंदो, सांवा, टांगुन की तरह विलुप्त ना हो जाएँ प्रश्न इसलिए तुम कुछ बीज प्रश्नों की बोती रहना कब्जा सिर्फ जमीन ही नहीं जेहन और जमीर की खेती पर भी है बीजों के बहेलियों की तुम पहचान रखना बाज़ार और सरकार मनाएंगे जश्न प्रश्नों के विनाश का पर दूर बस्तर के जंगलों में तुम खोज प्रश्नबीजों की जारी रखना जब कारखाने धुएं के गुब्बार तरक्की के उत्तर में बेचें जाएंगे तुम फेफड़ों की कीमत के प्रश्न को खाद देना जंगल, पहाड़, पानी बेचने को बांध, खदान, मॉल उगेंगे पर जो पुट्टू, महुआ, इमली बेचते हैं तुम उनके अंदर पनपते प्रश्नों की रोपाई करना पवित्र है प्रश्नों कि खेती तुम इसका प्रसाद दिल खोलकर बांटना संकर बीजों से निरवंशी न हो जाएं प्रश्न तुम प्रश्नबीजों की पाकीज़गी का ख्याल रखना। ***

Sourav Roy

मॉल एक मशीनी हाथ मुझे दरवाज़े पर रोककर लेता है तलाशी बैग की ज़िप को खोलता बंद करता हुआ कतार में लगे जूते अपने सामूहिक अपरिचय में एक दिशा में ताकते हैं हम बदलते हैं लगातार अपने चलने का प्रयोजन गति अंदाज़ फर्श पर हमारी नैसर्गिक चाल फिसलती है शीशे के पार चमकती हुई एक कैज़ुअल कमीज़ के ऊपर मेरा चेहरा ठहरता हुआ गुज़रता है चिचियाते बोर्ड पर जहाँ लिखा है – ‘सेल’ काँच के आरपार इत्र की खुशबू नियोन जैसी आँखों वाले सुन्दर स्त्री-पुरुष मैं यूटोपिया में विचरता हूँ – यहाँ सब सच है यहाँ सब भ्रम है मगर सब हासिल है सीढ़ियाँ मेरे पाँव के स्पर्श से चल देती हैं आकाशगंगा की ओर फ्लोर दर फ्लोर दो चोर आँखें तारामंडल में मंडराती हैं मेरी चीज़ें लगातार पुरानी पड़ती जाती हैं फ़ोन के स्क्रैच पर उँगलियों का मैल जमने लगता है खटकने लगती है नाक को जैकेट में रची बसी अपनी देह की गंध बोलिंग एले में एक भारी गोला अकेला लुढ़कता हुआ बोतलों की कतार से टकराकर विजयी होता है टेलीस्क्रीन टर्राती है जापानी में बधाई आँखों में थ्रीडी ऐनक खोंसे एक बच्चा आता है मेरे पास और पूछता है हाथ पकड़कर बाहर निकलने का रास्ता। *** मीम बर्फ़ के गोले से खेलता आदमी पहाड़ से नीचे ढुलक गया एक बिल्ली बैटमैन के भेष में नोचती है आइना रोज़ कॉम्प्लान पीने वाला बच्चा रह गया है ठिगना शक्ति कपूर की मूँछ छैंया-छैंया की धुन पर उचकती है तेजा मैं हूँ दाग़ अच्छे हैं ढाई किलो का हाथ वाह गोभी जी वाह लक्स, और क्या ! बॉस की शक्ल कुत्ते से मिलती है और सीनियर मैनेजमेंट की शक्ल खुजली वाले कुत्ते से जीवन भोकाली है बीत जाएगा प्रमोशन मांगे बिना हाथ जोड़कर मुस्कुराता संस्कारी बलात्कारी निकला शहरों के नाम बदलने वाला क्रूर राजा काला चश्मा मुँह में सिगार खोंसे बदलने लगा मौसम चिड़िया ईश्वर का नाम ओ माय गॉड व्हाट इज ही स्मोकिंग? दंगे में कुटाए आदमी का आख़िरी सवाल था कादर खान की बेटी पटाकर भाग गया गोविंदा माता रानी की कृपा ! नासा ने फिर से चुना जन गण मन को सबसे अच्छा गाना एक के साथ एक फ्री सर्विस टैक्स एक्स्ट्रा गुड मॉर्निंग गुड इवनिंग गुड नाईट इस बिंदु को देखते रहिये चमत्कार होगा। ***

Samantak Bhadra

Bullet points (in memory of Gauri Lankesh) In bullet points, tell me why the light at the end of the tunnel is the start of a journey why the journey  is a novel between two climaxes why the point is made before the debate why sound travels faster than light why one shot is one too many why two shots leave no reason for doubt In bullet points, tell me why the bullet precedes the point *** Fireflies (1) I hope our home did not have doors and windows roofs and clandestine balconies a porch with a rickety chair and an overfed cat that dug away at the boundaries that kept us rooted I really wish that evenings did not give way to nights where dimmed lights became fireflies while the sun rose on rotund oiled bellies every single morning Once in a while, Thamma wanted to become her childhood home forgetting her fragile veins that kept our memories intact (2) The road from our house to Dadu’s shop winded through simple tales that have since been overpowered by the rustle of torn umbilical cords tumbling across new roads I am told he drew conversations out of thin air, heavy and heady As the day waned, so did his wares and the walk back home always saw fireflies, lightly beating light (3) Fireflies are still beating light in my cupped palms as my father makes tiny pores in an empty pickle jar A home for the fireflies, I remember saying It is night and I keep the jar beside my bed They are dancing, reminding, dancing Memory helps you reach home at night At other times, one can rely on fireflies ('Thamma' means 'grandmother' in the East Bengal dialect of Bengali) *** Photography : Sonali Bhatia.
Read more on Bengaluru Review : In Pictures : When poets asserted their freedom of expression ‘In Bronxville, I meet a banana tree’ : Six poems by Devi Sastry ‘Thankfully, Bengalis do have a sense of humour’ : Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury  

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