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Shanta Acharya

Shanta Acharya

Photo by Lucan Husac.


Do not ask if I dare to dream
of a land where I can walk free, without fear,
the sacrifices made to flicker in that flame
of hope. Did not know the price would be so dear.

Life is a gift I thought, did not expect
it to be cheap, callously plucked - half-chewed
bones tossed drunkenly after the feast.

In the night of the splintering womb
my dreams turned into nightmares.

No mountain could carry my grief, no ocean
wash away my shame, no wind dry my tears.

Do not ask how many times I touched the heart
of grief prised open like a pomegranate,
my seeds spilling like rubies.
This is no time to forgive and forget.

Battered and broken, no hope of being mended,
my sorrow speaks in myriad voices, will not be silenced
till the sacrilege of rape and violence is atoned.

How long must we suffer, burn like incense,
hold on to faith, dreaming of change?
We have an entire universe to rearrange.

After centuries of dreaming we are awake, alive,
know what holds us together when things fall away.

As long as I can summon the strength to pick myself
up when cast in the gutter, and rise like a phoenix -
I'll let the universe know it does not exist without my dreams!

Poem inspired by the death of Jyoti Singh Pandey who was gang-raped in a bus in Delhi on 16 December 2012. She later died in a hospital in Singapore, where she was sent for treatment. According to Indian law, as she was raped, her name was initially not publicly disclosed, even after her death. The Indian media called the 23 year-old woman, Nirbhaya, the fearless one. It was her father, Badrinath Singh, who revealed her name, he wanted the world to know who she was.


What times are these that darken our horizon,
blur our view of what it means to be human?

What tides are these whose
rising waters of me keep drowning us?

What kind of people advertising
alchemy turn gold to lead and nectar to poison?

What future do we create for our children
if hope, justice, beauty and truth are forgotten?

To see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing,
do nothing turns you into a good-for-nothing.

Ignorance is not easily overcome,
though it rises to the surface like scum.

What times are these where each action
is a transaction?

People, nations, nature - the universe
is in a state of flux redefining us.

Those who believe know how to dream,
keep faith in things unseen.

The quality of darkness is how it lets us see.

In The British Museum

Meandering like a river
among the exhibits I encounter
Shiva and Parvati engrossed in each other
holding the universe between their eyes.

Startled to find an offering of flowers
nestling at their feet where
Nandi, Shiva's bull, and Parvati's lion
gaze bashfully at each other,

This statue from Orissa, the place of my birth
carved between AD 1100-1300
on gleaming black schist demands my attention.

I am in the presence of God
conceived as a couple, male and female,
on the point of becoming One.

Over two centuries have elapsed
since the divine pair -
dressed lavishly in decorated loin cloths
their naked bodies adorned with ornaments
earrings, necklaces, headdresses, anklets -

were taken from their home in an ornate temple,
perhaps in Bhubaneswar, the abode of the gods,
where worshippers thronged for a darshan
offering gifts and prayers
holding conversations with gods that began in
the temple and were carried on everyday, everywhere.

Here the gods sit silently contemplating the world
and each other, oblivious of a broken-hearted believer.
Have you forgotten your daughter, how long must I suffer
alone buffeted by life's crosswinds before I find shelter?


A particle of energy in perpetual motion
changing from mist and vapour to earth
and its creatures, intergalactic water -

the incredible journey
began before the beginning
of life and time, before the spirit moved

upon the face of the waters
making universes,
dividing water from water.

Colourless, odourless,
lacking shape, taste,
complete yet miscible,
capable of being anything -

finding its voice with others
holding infinite possibilities
in a landscape of illusions,

revealing how life flows
acquiring the essence of things
it touches, taking new identities

wanting to be changed, mended,
losing itself in everything it encounters,
transforming, keeping an open mind
an unstoppable force of nature
changing the world by changing itself.


A massive asteroid will collide with the earth.
There will be no injustice, war, disease or poverty,
No floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, drought or famine.
Nature will protect biodiversity, life and liberty.
One day my lottery numbers will hit the jackpot
But I'd have forgotten to buy a ticket.
My poems will live in every human heart.
One day I'll stand humbly before God,
Learn why I was born, how I played my part.
One day I'll understand the secret of happiness.
I will not worry if I failed, got things wrong.
What are the odds of being right, alive and young?
One day all my ships will come home.
Chances are in my life such a day will not come.



Jayanta Mahapatra: In Conversation with Sachidananda Mohanty
Sarojini Sahoo: In Discussion with Kavita Arya

Deepali Yadav: Divakaruni’s Oleander Girl
Disha Khanna: Mahesh Dattani’s On a Muggy Night in Mumbai
Hampi Chakrabarti: Punctured Conscience
Koushiki Dasgupta: The Poetry of Mallika Sengupta

Book Reviews
Atreya Sarma: ‘Mystic Warrior’
GSP Rao: ‘Tapestry Poetry’
Jaydeep Sarangi: ‘Exchanges with the Thinker’
Priyanka Kakoti: ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’

Ambika Ananth: Editorial Note
Abin Chakraborty
Amreen B Shaikh
Ankush Banerjee
Charles Thielman
Jhuma Sen
Lora Tomas
Neelam Dadhwal
Rafiul Rahman
Rittvika Singh
Rob Harle
Rohan Dominic Mathews
Shanta Acharya
Simon Perchik
Sunita Raina Pandit

Shernaz Wadia: Editorial Comment
Anirudh Kala: ‘Mr Haq’
KL Chowdhury: ‘Tenderer than a Petal…’
Madhuliika Ghose: ‘Inspiration’
Prashila Naik: ‘The B.A. Pass Groom’
Sunil Sharma: ‘Dream’
Vempalle Shariff: ‘A Point of Nails’

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