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Syamantakshobhan Basu

Syamantakshobhan Basu

Dramatic sunset. Image credit: Stellab at



My heart, it speaks in a foreign tongue
From those in my textbooks.
I have learnt history, and math,
And poesy,
All in another's tongue,
And with another's meaning.

My heart speaks its own language,
And creates verses in it.
My heart sings in the sweet cadences of my ancestors-
Fishermen, gentlemen farmers,
In a little village in West Bengal.
My heart rings with its accents still,
Heard askance and far away from home.

I write in another's language,
But a different spirit whets my tongue,
And guides my pen
Scratching over ancient paper
With a new-found fancy pen.


The Girl Who Plays With Mud in My City

A muddy river flows through the city
Where once a million people lived.
One solitary girl child sits making figured out of the mud
Swirling it into shapes
That she remembers from the torn remnant of a history book
Not quite washed away in the Flood.
People rise up from the mud and go to their daily jobs
And come to their daily homes,
Their shapes exactly as the figures on the alien girl's
Now brittle, now tough,
Now broken, now whole,
Altogether human, entirely imaginary.

Shadows making love and shaping life, Shadows born out of mud and water, Shadows circling in the cloudy eyes Of a dirty, lonely, female Finger.


Porn Central Was Shut Down Last Weekend

Porn central was switched off last weekend.
Just when streams of people were settling down
For their end-of-week dose of gratuitous
Virtual sex.
857 sites, all checked and marked and rinsed out
Of our collective conscience.
Stoppered and blacked out,
Throwing up blank pages on the colourful naked walls
Of our wasting fantasies.

I will not quip or quibble or hold forth at length.
Just barely toss in my first memory
Of a group of boys in a darkened room,
Staring wide eyed at two people spending
One Night in Paris,
Or New York or Shanghai,
In a flat in Kolkata.
One little man would not watch but out of the corner of his eye
At two people doing what people have done Since people learnt to do,
Unto each other,
Or themselves.

The air was rife with two kinds of guilt,
One that enjoyed the prohibition
The other that strove to run away
From what his body felt,
Run away from the cage of shame,
Run away from the feeling that his body was not his own,
Not at all his very own.

Band together to have it all
Blacked out,
Burnt away, pasted over.
Each night
A young body somewhere,
In a state of suspended shame
Will learn to look past the blank web pages
Of a bleak State
Of affairs.


What the Writer Whispered in the Dark

He could have robbed a bank
Or stolen from the rich.
He chose to write words instead.
In spirals and spirals they bound him
To his body.
His spirit escaped in the Dead of night.


My Comrade Reads Letters by the Riverside

I opened my bag last evening
And found an old yellowing leaflet from a demonstration we
Had once arranged.
On the back of it I wrote a letter to my comrade.
"The time presses on.
Three times in the past month I have seen marches crushed
By faceless men in colourless armour.
The blood they left on the streets
Was the same colour of blood that we used on our white sheets.
We made red spears of our hearts and threw them at our enemy,
The enemy stepped back surprised,
Till one day we pushed them off the cliff."

My comrade, these letters chase me around like
A fever dream.
We push out our eyeballs onto the paper
And we lick the words with our hungry tongues.
My comrade, when our bloodied shirts have dried
There will be my hand on the back of your shirt
And your hand on mine.
Imprinted. Unwashable. Eternal.
Where we pressed our hands into each other's backs and held
The barricade against the faceless men,
A part of you flowed into me.
We became more than the sum of ourselves.



Adil Jussawala: In Discussion with Nabina Das
Easterine Kire: In Conversation with Babli Mallick

Kiran Kalra: Amish Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha
Manjinder Kaur Wratch: The ‘Draupadian’ Agony
Raj Gaurav Verma: Children’s Fiction in India
Sachin Ketkar: Between ‘Swakiya’ and ‘Parkiya’
SK Sagir Ali: Select Stories of Saleem
Sukla Singha: Kokborok Poetry

Book Reviews
Chepuru Subbarao: ‘Turquoise Tulips
Debasish Lahiri: ‘Tagore, Gora: A Critical Companion
GSP Rao: ‘Being Hindu
Mirosh Thomas & Pramod K Das: ‘Sensitivity and Cultural Multiplexity
Purabi Bhattacharya: ‘Come Sit with Me by the River
Revathi Raj Iyer: ‘New Songs of the Survivors
Sagarika Dash: ‘Runaway Writers
Subashish Bhattacharjee: ‘East of Suez: Stories of Love… from the Raj’
Sunaina Jain: ‘What will You Give for this Beauty?

Arunima Paul
Bibhu Padhi
Darius Cooper
Md. Ziaul Haque
Prakash Ram Bhat
Samreen Sajeda
Sutapa Chaudhuri
Syamantakshobhan Basu

U Atreya Srama: Editorial Musings
Chandrashekhar Sastry: Auto-da-fe
Jim Wungramyao Kasom: The Search
Lahari Mahalanabish: The Museum
Smita Sahay: The Promise
Sridhar Venkatasubramanian: Déjà Vu
Tulsi Charan Bisht: Flowers
V P Gangadharan: Horrid-scope
Vrinda Baliga: Siege

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