You must become Hampi
before you decide to visit it.
Or else it would elude you.
You may devour history books;
or listen to its stories from many a mouth,
yet Hampi would forever remain a mystery.
No one can tell you how to,
but you must become Hampi yourself.
Or just begin an unplanned journey to it,
and somewhere on the way you will become it.
You mustn’t carry a road-map with you
or hire a competent guide.
Hampi will direct you to it
by whispering a time into your being –
a different order of time, which is but now.
A POET’S GRAVE
While excavating the dried-up riverbed,
and the area around it,
they stumbled upon a grave.
In another time,
a man visited that place every evening
to engrave poems on the
waters of the river that rippled and whirled,
on the tired wings of the homeward birds,
on the trees that patterned the horizon
and on the gusts of wind that now and then
rustled the reeds along the riverbank.
One evening when the moon was up,
and the undulating whisper of bhajans
flitted from one gust of wind to the other,
he offered the blank pages of his body
to the river while humming a song.
As they dug the grave deeper and deeper,
what they found was loose pages of poetry
separated by iridescent sand.
BAGHA WAS UPSET
Bagha was upset.
The garbage had been removed
and the place was clean and dry.
Next to what used to be
a heap of garbage – rich with leftovers of
dry and half eaten bread, semi-rotten
pieces of chicken, mutton and fish,
rotten vegetables, dead rats and all that,
now stood the life-size cut-out of some
local leader, clad in complete white.
Bagha, the mad beggar, was doubtful.
While digging into the crust
of dirt on his scalp with his
dark nails, he was thinking:
“Can this life-size cut-out calm
my hunger like the rich garbage-heap?"
A LANDSCAPE OF LONGING
Withered leaves still adorn
the pathway to the
moss-covered abandoned house.
They say, the old priest still lights sacred lamps
before the vermilion-smeared deity.
And somewhere across the paddy fields
the small river still flows by
with a half-remembered song.
And on moonlit nights still comes alive
the landscape of longing.
ACROSS THE NIGHT
All roads fall into a pathway
that meanders through
the lush green paddy fields
leading to a mountain
that almost touches the sky.
On starry nights you could
climb up the mountain and
But be careful,
the stars might wilt
in your hand if you
have not waited all your life.
You could consign the plucked stars
to the river across the mountain as
libation and sail into the silences
of the night on the boat
that has been waiting somewhere
on the banks of the river for ages.
there is a region across the night
from where there is no return.
kept on licking the
cold body of Monku,
that lay on the roadside,
the whole day.
She waited by its side
till the evening and then
left when it started to rain.
Amidst the downpour,
there was a little water
in the eyes of the cobbler’s
five year old child.
“Monku, the puppy,
shouldn’t have crossed
the road alone.”
You know, it rained today.
I pushed the curtain to
one side of the window after
almost a lifetime to see the rain.
It had frosted the window,
patterned the electric wires
with beads and had seeped
under the carpet of asphalt
to let the soil exhale a smell
that was not unfamiliar.
As I opened the window,
letting the drops rest on my books,
notebooks, fountain pen and
study table, a smell from
another era crept into my being.
Do you remember
how we used to welcome the rain
into our small room through the window
with the Krushnachura almost
benignly sending out its bud-studded
tender branches into our world?
Years have elapsed since then –
the room, the window,
the city and you.
But still in another city
the rain rises with the same
ache in the heart.
Rain is an ache after all!
Issue 82 (Nov-Dec 2018)