Father Returning Home
My father travels on the late evening train
Standing among silent commuters in the yellow light
Suburbs slide past his unseeing eyes
His shirt and pants are soggy and his black raincoat
Stained with mud and his bag stuffed with books
Is falling apart. His eyes dimmed by age
fade homeward through the humid monsoon night.
Now I can see him getting off the train
Like a word dropped from a long sentence.
He hurries across the length of the grey platform,
Crosses the railway line, enters the lane,
His chappals are sticky with mud, but he hurries onward.
Home again, I see him drinking weak tea,
Eating a stale chapati, reading a book.
He goes into the toilet to contemplate
Man's estrangement from a man-made world.
Coming out he trembles at the sink,
The cold water running over his brown hands,
A few droplets cling to the greying hairs on his wrists.
His sullen children have often refused to share
Jokes and secrets with him. He will now go to sleep
Listening to the static on the radio, dreaming
Of his ancestors and grandchildren, thinking
Of nomads entering a subcontinent through a narrow pass.
Hidden in my skull are the caves where the endless
Reticular frescoes of my awesome childhood
Those are the spaces where the banyan trees of Vadodara
Vie with the neems and the mango gardens.
They were born ancient like me — those banyans
With their branch-like roots splayed in empty spaces,
With their huge population of ants and worms,
Bats hanging upside down.
And the public libraries where books printed
On what were once forests in Sweden
Gave me the world’s unfathomable texts.
Baroda is what the British called Vadodara.
That’s where my deaf and blind great-grandmother died
At the age of 101 — bald, wrinkled, and withered.
That’s where we flew kites and learnt to finger
The pussies of eager and willing little girls
On summer afternoons and always upstairs.
That’s where we secretly read manuals of black magic
And pornographic books in euphemistic Hindustani
In which it was invariably the dhobi’s wife that got laid
After washing the whole town’s dirty linen on the ghat.
Could I tell those stories now ?
After sixty years of fermenting in my own vat?
Vadodara’s vats are full of such sexy scent !
In Gruesome Weather
In Gruesome weather it started
My journey of love aborted
Red walls black drapes white hair
I stood on the ramparts of fear
In gruesome weather
My spine felt like melting ice
I stood at the very edge of vice
At the heart of the lonely crowd
The seed of void
In gruesome weather it sprouted
Nine hundred thousand eyelids
I walked the shores of silence
Looking for a sea-shell I knew
Ever since the first ice broke
Will the Poem End ?
Will the poem end where
Barbed letters stare their black spells
Aimed at my eyes
Blood turns into tears shed by
An absent eye
And the admonition:
“Thou shalt not love this world
And sleep with thy enemy.”
Will the poem end when
All His light is spent
And to a standstill, to a standstill come
All heartbeats and all drums
The cosmic drone
Buzzes back into itself
Looking for its beginning
In a billion.
That’s just statistic
And for me