Sunday, February 7

Poetry in the time of Intolerance

Ghazal for Bal & Raj Thackerey

I have a little piece of my sky in the skies of the city
Leave it alone, as you redden, the skies of the city

My sand house by the beach, a lonely migrant’s home
No more the sea welcomes in the rise of the city

A train goes to my town everyday, full of disillusions
I try to untangle my heart from the ties of the city

The city looks for blood, she is crazy, hate is her rant
I write a love poem to block the cries of the city

Shuchika is an outsider, the city says, I am exiled here.
What is my truth, I wonder, in the lies of the city?

I feel pain. I am pained with the moral dictates of self proclaimed nationalists. And for many many days, I decided to be a fence sitter. But now the fence hurts.

Dear Hate them all,

I wish you go through what I have to say. There have been two occasions in my life when I regretted not having learnt the beautiful language Marathi. Once, when I had wanted to read the book Mritunjay by Shivaji Savant and today when I write this post. I wish I could write this in Marathi.

I started to write this blog in the year 2005, I blogged about Mumbai on August 15, 2005 the first time. You can read the post here.

Bombay: my soul mate

I love Mumbai. I call it Mumbai because words have been beaten into coercion. Fear got added to Mumbai’s lexicon years ago.

The town I had come to, the town I had fallen in love with was called Bombay. The issue is not what you call it today, the issue is fear.

I fell in love with Mumbai after I read Midnight’s children. And Rushdie’s Bombay became my karmbhoomi. Till yesterday, I busied myself writing about the humdrum of my Corporate existence. Or what I did with my weekends.

I have never felt like taking sides on this blog. Political alignment of any kind in blog or life is very worthless for me. But I cant see my Bombay and your Mumbai burning and I want to tell you what this town means for outsiders.

My first idea of Bombay was of course fueled by Bollywood cinemas. A simple small town girl descends from the train in search of her lost beau and ends up in a brothel full of greedy aunts and honey soaked Mamajis. What I had for Bombay then was probably what David would have for Goliath before he actually met him.

And then there was Rushdie’s Bombay. Raw. Unnerving. Crazy. Yet so lovable.

I came to Mumbai alone in 1999. One cold train journey alone sealed my destiny in the city. The first time I came here, I did what any rustic country cousin does. I gobbled Batata Vada from Ratna Giri to Mumbai. I went to Marine Drive when it rained. I bought shoes from Linking Road scarves from Colaba. I made a house, a sand house like all hopeless romantics on Juhu Beach. It is my lucky charm in this city.

When Carry Bradshaw asks Louise from St Louise, why did you come to New York in the movie Sex and the City, she replies unhesitant; “to find love”. I felt the same gnawing in Mumbai.

I owe so much to the city. My pay cheques. My Independence. Myself. In the fret for love, it is here I found myself.My true self.

And suddenly I am being told that I am not welcome. I am a Bihari. And by the way nor is Amitabh Bachchan, he is a UPite. Or Shahrukh Khan, he is from Delhi Maybe even poet Gulzaar, he is from Lahore (OMG !!!) What about Unnikrishan (who was slain fighting for this city ?). And Shabana Azmi, who once went on hunger strike fighting for slum dwellers (she is a Muslim from Azamgarh, she was never welcome).

What about Rushdie? A writer, muslim by religion, shunned by muslims world over, ( would that make him your ally ?) a Bombay boy, not welcome in his own country, who loves Bombay perhaps as much as you do, how would you, react to Rushdie, who is its best brand ambassador, ( read his piece on Mumbai Meri Jaan) which box would you put him into “hate them all”?

Your brand of politics in dated. India is at a crossroad. Maharastra is at a crossroad. There is stiff competition among states. Take lessons from Modi. Or condescend further. Take lessons from Nitish Kumar. You and uncle’s agenda are as old as the uncle himself. Political symbolisms in India have evolved from vandalism, beating up Muslims to train journeys with common man and dalit visits.

First, it was South Indians, then Muslims, now UP ites and Biharis. Very soon you will out of work because there would be nobody left to hate.

I still think calling Khan a traitor was the real low point. He is a goddamn youth icon. He is what Mumbai stands for.

And by the way, if you really want to unwelcome me you have to do a lot before you can get down to turning me out. You have got to throw out all the colleges and Institutions that invite nationwide talent. You have got to ask all organizations that employ us Indians here. You would have to ask bollywood to go fuck itself elsewhere. You would have to stop trains from UP- Bihar at Igatpuri or before. You would have to make the cities unsafe for women; you would have to stop the financial fulcrum of Mumbai. You would have to make Mumbai difficult to navigate. You would have to stop Gulzaar from reading Izhaar Khan’s poetry at Bandra Fort. Because these are the things and people who make Mumbai, not you.

So stop your rhetoric, and make clouds out of the cardboard box you put people into. I recommend poetry at Bandra fort for your political detox.

I have resolved to protect my sand house at Juhu Beach. Let’s see whose side the sea is on.

Tuesday, February 2

Your Poem

I hide behind the poet’s block
The muse is constipated today
I proclaim. I crouch behind her.
I know. I know one quirky day
that will start somewhere else
and lead me somewhere else
like a nice poem, one such day
I will pick up the pen to write
about the red of luscious lips
I will instead write about you.

In the poem, titled “.you” I’d
Tell about the stars. Not how
They lend their silver to the
dark night. But their seamier
side. Full of deceit.

I will write about our fates
intertwined like snakes. I
will write about the oil lamp,
with you, bent on its side
and the deer shadow, I made
with my dancing fingers on
the wall.

In the poem I will allude to
the comfort of hot water
in our shared periods. And
the warmth of your giggles
at the knot of my yellow
sari worn to welcome the

I will contain the fear that
Stuck to you like a leech
My hand that felt the moist
of your tear soaked cheeks
on a sleepy winter morning,
The morning, when last of
your dreams had died.

Here, perhaps here I will take
A pause, a poetic pause. A
license to evade the truth.
And tangle the poem in the
Black web of you hair, color
it with the red of your nail tips

Perhaps I will take my muse
Elsewhere. I will write about
Paragliding. Poached eggs or
the anger of roasted chickens.
I will be consumed by mundane.
I will sprint away from you.
But I know this race is on
a circular track. Sooner
or later, I will face you again
And then I will have to write
About you.

Sunday, January 31


writer's bloc

Tuesday, January 26

Rekha on herself

My mother called me Rekha
A line, crooked line.
A kohl black line in deep eyes
A Line, I crossed
To know my limit

I am the last courtesan
Singing ruefully
In a court,
Sans patrons,
My husky voice
made men leave
their fortunes
and sit at my feet

I am the other woman
Always the sucker,
Clung to you, leech-like
The perfect antidote
to a dutiful wife
who sang devotional
She fought me
Till the last frame
Two women,
Both perfect
Drawn in a battle
Over a piece of ass

Do you know, I laughed
at the 70 mm irony
my life had become,
later, in my vanity van.

I am the “it girl”
All sheen and gloss
I am the red stiletto
and red luscious
lips in your dreams
I am what yoga
does to a yogini

I survived, despite
The hair on my face
And my broad broad hips
I survived an absent father
An illegitimate lover
I survived husbands and dogs
Dying on me.

Now, I live by the sea
In a white kanjeevaram
And jewels,
Oh ! I always loved jewels
I live with cats and dogs
I tend a small nursery
I live with strength that
comes when you have
Loved so deeply.

Thursday, January 21

a ghazal

I search for my childhood skies nowadays, your skies
are stark, lonely; give me the starry nights of childhood

The trees have blurred, mountains are beaten everyday
Rivers shrink here; I miss the lovely sights of childhood

My many maneuvers, I navigate through the layers
To the adult mutinies, I prefer the little fights of childhood

My homespun happiness traded for a locked door, foil
packed dinner, give me the warm delights of childhood

Shuchika is molded in your city’s cast, on its wheels I pirouette,
To be myself, whole, let me go through the rites of childhood

Monday, January 11

The Roasted Chicken speaks to the Chef

Vegans shouldnt read this poem at all. Its very drafty but I just felt like sharing.

This white cap is the
Real irony
You dress up, clown like
To undress me solemnly
This they call dressing

The way you hold me
by the neck
My body, fat and juice
All my feathers plucked
I hate my nudity

Don’t rub the black pepper
so rudely, clown
I have only just
undergone lime treatment.
Your idea of a wash

The freezer is no spa
I sit there all night
Fancy spices all over me
Oh how I prefer the noise
Of the barn to this wheeze

One day we will square off
When I stuff you with
Potatoes and butter, and
stare at you sinuously
Browning in an oven with shame!!!

Wednesday, January 6

For Barrack Obama from Elizabeth Alexander

Wanted to start the blogging in the new year with this beautiful poem by Elizabeth Alexander who was selected to read it out for Obama's Presidential Inaugration.

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.