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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