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
spring.

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.