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


 

2 Comments

  1. Was very excited to read snapshots of 100TPC but equally disappointed not to find many of our poems not featured.
    Was there any kind of selection made? If so on what sort of parameters?

    Like

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