Saturday, 12 August 2017

[Poetry] Picture Poem

The poem was written in response to this picture.


I will walk into the tide

Break and fall upon the waves


One by one I have undone

my hold upon the world

The world is a blue void

The sky above the sea below

The sand sinks softly under my feet

Soothing calluses earned

From thorny pathways tred

The sea would fall

Caressing, lavaging the pits

And undo it all

The world is a blue void

Hearts with love devoid

Man, a trampling humanoid

With every fall

No hope at all

The race is lost

Before the start

The relentless waves

break hard against the shore

With a vigorous uproar

The sound and the fury

Of infinity

The salt from my tears

Blend with the spray

I blend a finite life

Of petty woes

Pitiful throes

I find my peace

I find my cure

In this azure eternity

Thursday, 10 August 2017

[ Short Story] Afternoons in Childhood


Amrit threw down the pencil in frustration.  Doing fraction sums on a half empty stomach upon a Sunday afternoon was neither easy nor desirable.
His stomach growled.
He should not have protested so strongly about the beetroot curry. He went into the kitchen to see if his lunch plate was still there. His mother sometimes left it covered, knowing that he would return, even adding an enticement like papad or a small bowl of sev.
But today, she had been particularly annoyed.

He tiptoed into his parents’ room to see if they were asleep, then he crept out of the house, wheeling his bicycle to the elevator.
His lived on the fifth floor of a 9 storey apartment block.

He pedaled to the back yard to check if any of his friends were playing.
No one was about.
The summer sun hovered threateningly above, shoving
wanderers indoors.

Crows waddled about, pecking at food droppings from over flowing dumpsters their feet half buried in the soft-top soil.
He chased them on his bicycle. They rose cawing furiously; some flew threateningly above his head.
He soon grew tired of this pastime.

He circled the building and through shaded eyes scanned the monolithic column to see if any of his friends were playing in the balconies.

Suddenly, the smell of potato bhajjis roasting in hot oil, assailed his nostrils. The hunger he had kept in abeyance, rose again.

He took a couple of listless turns around the building.
He hesitated. Perhaps, it was time to go home. His mother might relent or, would she?
He made his way irresolutely towards the elevator.  

He left his cycle in the corridor and rang the bell.           
Lalitha opened the door; her right hand was caked with flour.
 He saw Vipul at the head of the table, his cheeks bulging with the bhajjies stuffed hurriedly into his mouth.
Vipul glared at him, shaking his head vigorously, signalling him to leave.

“Aunty, I wanted to see if Vipul wants to play…” He gave her his winning smile.

She nodded and let him in.

He smiled triumphantly.

He had been right about the house.



Thursday, 13 April 2017

[Poem] The Woman in the Woods - An Ekphrastic Poem

                   
                            Painting by Sushmita Gupta
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I spied her among the forest trees
Her soft humming echoing in the dusk’s stillness
A forest nymph swathed in green georgette
Hiding her long lustrous hair in a tight oiled coil
I lost myself at the brink of the deep swirl of her liquid eyes
Evocative, their power moated by kohled rims

She plucked a hibiscus and struck it absently in her hair
I knew it would remain there
Secure – much like her fastened thoughts

The stark vermillion mark on her forehead
Was it there, to ward off advances
Or was it a symbol of her own confinement?
I wondered…

For, her lissome beauty
Would enslave all that she surveyed

Even the modest beads swinging from her ears and neck
Shone in borrowed glory

Yet, the downward curl of her lips,
The angry red spots on her cheeks
Invaded my aesthetic ruminations…

I drew closer.

Dear woman, you are no Ravi Varma damsel with bashful eyes
Life had visited you Time and again -
You bear its marks
The angry red streak on your forehead, perhaps sustained from a fall
Your cheeks roughened by vicious assault

Yet you go on
Defiance burns in your eyes
And in the firm set of your lips
Life’s attempts to break you fail
You fight back
And sport with the dragon flies

Sunday, 2 April 2017

[Poetry] Haikus and a Tanka

SUMMER BREEZE (haiku)
Embraces, plays with my
hair, clothes, but not just with me
- truant summer breeze

 DUST STORM (Haiku)
Nostrils clog with dust
Leeching every crack - sneezes
- Clear sky ponders me

SEASHELLS (haiku)
Deserted homes
dot sands- treasures await
gleeful enthusiasts

SAND DUNES (haiku)
Hillocks stretch smooth soft
Ridged, ever changing -the wind's
Eternal playground

PRAYER (Tanka)
At wishing fountain
people toss coins -prayers dispatched
with a token fee
Needy urchins' nightly haul
Silent thanks for prayers answered


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

[Poem] Nest - A Ghazal

Built we a home, a place, our nest
A place of love and of rest, nest

Some homes are built for conceit
 But ours, is no weaver bird's nest

In the pile of straw, grass and twigs
Tiny eggs ripple in the warm nest

This home, an open womb, an incubator
Eager fledglings cackle and grope, in the nest

The laughter and cries of children,
The sound of running feet, fills our nest

Wonder why some choose to discard
Their eggs, their future, in another nest?

Perhaps they are the wise, perhaps they know
Fledglings will grow wings and desert the nest?

Oh Illakiya! a few feeble twigs, limp grass and floppy straw
A shell that houses empty shells, is that still, a nest?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

[Poem] Control


Many things in life, have to be admired and experienced from a distance.
But sometimes we are seized by a childish desire to own, to appropriate for ourselves alone the beauty that we see. But the owning, might result in the disappearance of the very object we covet.
This poem uses a glass of water as a metaphor to elaborate this idea.

A glass of water sits on the table

I detect
Patterns of iridescence
the colours of the rainbow
twinkling 
As the light falls
The breeze
Causes delectable ripples

I let it sit there
Drinking with my eyes
And incredible joy engulfs my being

Then I pick it up
Let the liquid flow
Drop by drop
In my mouth's hollow
The last drop lingers in my lips
but it too vanishes
at last

I thought the drinking
Would leave me all tingling
Brimming with the overflow-
A surfeit
Filling all my pores

Yet, there is only an emptiness
A loss, a void,
A regret at what once was
And IS no more again...

[Poem] The Curse of Modernity



This poem was written in response to a contest conducted by Dr Saantosh Bakayya, who took the above picture. It was declared as a winning entry along with four other poems, in the literary group The Significant League. 

Please click on this link to hear the audio recording of the poem

https://soundcloud.com/bhuvaneshwari-shankar/the-curse-of-modernity


When did my world begin to change?
Frozen in a dizzying time warp,
I stand nailed to the ground
Feeling a a giant train blast through me
Littering my world with alien debris

The television came
With it, the advertisements
That bid to change with the times
Oh! the relentless bombardment
Day after day
Bewilderment
Day after day

Watching shadows, I could tell the time
Unlearnt it - to own a watch
My spun cotton no longer trendy
I spend a better part of my earning
On clothes that no longer fit
In pantaloons badly stitched

The local grocer changed his ware
Traditional was passe
Potato silvers, biscuits, soft drinks in the display
We ate that too, because the advertisements told us to

The rich own the world
They always do
They get the best slice of the consumer pie
We get the crumbs
 And call it nectar

All this talk of organic farming
But we have always been organic
Till the pesticides came on the scene
Our water ways on the verge of pollution
The village air
Toxin free for now
I dread the sick world
Which is my child's inheritance

The local shaman has been shamed
 By men in white coats
He has not the wherewithal
To fight diseases of the modern world

The city - a tantalizing temptress beckons
Dimmed- the senses lie, in the bright lights
 But I have come not to drown in her pleasures
Disease is a demon at my back
And, I have come gathering  all that I ever owned
Fear compels, so does hope for a death postponed

The giant shark waits
Its mouth wide open, fangs exposed
It swallows all
And hungers for more
My money, my dignity, even my footwear
My life is a study in despair

I await the word of the shaman in a white coat
Little realizing that he is but a sham
I squat here my defilement complete
In a shabby road unkempt
The corporate shark has sucked
My life's blood
Barely have I, anything left
for a meal or even a bottle of water
A hotel stay is but a pipe dream

All around me vehicles blare and hurry past
Men and women move fast
Hurrying towards something
I am all alone
In a loveless world
Shorn of everything
I squat in the filthy street
Dreaming of the green fields back home

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

[Poem] Ras Lila: A Roseate Sonnet

This is a roseate sonnet on the Ras Lila. The roseate sonnet consists of three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. The first letters of the last quatrain begin with R O S E and hence the name Roseate sonnet.

Image source: http://www.junglekey.in/search.php?query=Rasa+lila&type=image&lang=en&region=in&img=1&adv=1

Dusk meanders in like a giant inebriate
Thoughts held at bay, through the day
 Rise and take hold, sleep - vagrant, inchoate
 I dread another night of agonized dismay

I stray listlessly, find my friends in the bower
Each languid, in different states of disarray
Wander they, as I, in search of the Eternal Lover
Callous, whimsical, he hold us in his irresistible sway

At last, strains from his flute float in, through the falling dew
Our spirits rise and joys engulf, as if on cue

Radiant, effulgent, ever youthful, blue hued lover
Offer I, me, up to you, to do as you will
Salvage my failing spirit, O saviour
Enfold, embrace, of your benevolence, let me have my fill

Friday, 3 March 2017

[Poem] Temptress- A Feminist Reading

                          Image source:https://www.arab-painting.com/pic/Oil

The Virgin and the Temptress
Have always been here
Since Creation

Born and reborn in myth
Only, the Temptress
Siren Eve, Shurpanaka, 
Time and again
Reinvented
She is a courtesan
A dancer, musician, an entertainer

The temptress today
Unveil her many graces
In celluloid
As voyeuristic cameras
Explore her in the minutest detail

Men will of course call her a goddess
worship her in the silver screen
Yet
Gape at her posters
Salivate in private
Call her
Unfactually
Unfaithful

Neither goddess nor nymphet,
She is
A mere puppet
In the (film) Maker's hand

Thursday, 23 February 2017

[Ghazal] To Love

The queen moon is silent tonight
She is a dying ember contrite, tonight

Now, no longer am I his delight
He will lie in her arms tonight

Behold the myriad lovers under the stars
Their eyes shine and lips profess love tonight

 Trapped in a virginal tower of white
I write verses to the god of love tonight

Wherefore do you wait, Ilakea all red eyed?
Don't you know he is not yours tonight?

Sunday, 19 February 2017

[Poem] After all the Goodbyes have been Said...

After, all the good byes have been said, why do they linger still?
He begins in right earnest on something new
If he lags she pitches in, with a bad joke, even a miscue

After, all the goodbyes have been said, why do they linger so?
Do either of them know
The sleep they seek
Would elude them still
He would keep the clock company
And she would stand sentinel to the stars

 After, all the goodbyes have been said, why do they linger on?
When the moon becomes the sun
Is it always day in their rosy world?

After, all the goodbyes have been said, why do they linger still?
Do they fear waking
Only to find that it was all a dream?

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

[Short Story] Many Tales to Tell

Arjun sat on the sofa, agitation written all over him. Every few minutes he changed the songs in his play list, tiring easily of each one. Either he didn't know the whole song, or the lyrics were bad or it was too tough.

He felt his mother's touch on his shoulder and saw her looking down at him in amusement.

'What is all that frustration for?
You are going to break that iPod today.
Don't think, your father will buy you another one all that soon.'

Seeing her laugh only heightened his anger.
He plucked the headphones and flung the iPod along with it on the sofa.
'The cultural programme at college is starting tomorrow.
The music competitions will happen day after.
The seniors said, that they are banking on me.
And I am not even able to decide on the song yet...'
He gave her a blank stare.

She sat next to him, and gave him a hug and he slumped down on her lap, even letting her ruffle his hair, which he was very protective of, ever since he joined college.
'Oh! you remind me ever so often that you are still that little boy, whom I desperately wanted to grow up.
But, it is nice to meet him, every now and then.'
He sat up suddenly and glared at her.
'Ma, cut the crap ...
I think I'll go out...'
She jumped up and stayed him.
'Hey, calm down...

I have saved some of the new songs ... you know... those that you haven't heard ... I am also sure you will find something interesting...'
Mothers know their sons best and he did find that magical song.

The beautiful love song, sung in his earnest voice moved almost everyone in the audience.

'My nights grow listless without you
My heart grows agitated with out you
My peace deserts me without you...'

Every girl there felt, that he had actually sung the song for her.
He was the most popular guy in college from the next day.

The song helped him meet and marry his future wife.

II

Arjun stood in the kitchen, cooking an elaborate meal of dhal and parathas. He fortified himself with a steady supply of tea that simmered on the smallest burner in the cooking range. The kitchen was an absolute mess, but he had won the cleaning lady's heart with his generous tips and his kindness.

Now that he was alone, he wanted to make the best use of his free time. ‘Freedom from bland cooking!’ he shouted or rather sloganeered as he slathered more ghee over an already soggy paratha.

His mind kept reminding him of what lay in wait that evening.

Marriage, he agreed, was good yet there were many sacrifices, some of which, he missed terribly- like his friends or the late night parties with them.

He hated having to behave so responsibly all of the time.
‘Come prepared with some songs…’ his friends had ordered, they were equally eager to meet him. They specifically requested for a song that was taking the Internet by storm.

It was a song of joy, a song of liberation, a song of celebration.

He worked up the mood to sing it with the right amount of gusto.

He sang it loudly and experimented with a few moves that could go with it.
In his enthusiasm, he failed to notice the generous drippings of ghee that had enriched not just the paratha, but the floor as well.

He felt his feet slipping and fell with a thud, the song turning into a whimper in his lips.
 
He could never recall the events that followed clearly, but he found himself being helped by a contrite tearful wife, who looked at him, her eyes brimming over, with love.

III 

Years later, when her children grew up, she would tell them her love story animatedly. How her husband, their father had loved her the moment he set eyes on her and how he had wooed her with his song at the college cultural show. She would tell them of their first fight and how, when she had returned home plagued by pangs of guilt, she had found him slumped on the floor, crying his heart out for her

‘Oh! my wife has gone away to her mother’s…’

She would also tell them of her firm resolve to never leave his side, ever again…

And that, my friends, is how myths are born and propagated.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

[Poem] Hymn to Defeat

                                  Image was found at http://dods.gamebanana.com/maps/664

I walk this road
Alone
Axing
Beastly foliage
with bare hands
If I fall
I crawl
With the insects in the dust

I walk
Clawing at cobwebs
Mummified in grey tendrils
A noose gripping my throat

In dark caves
I cower 
Fear laughs
And swings from the roof
Or hovers
Overhead, leering
Waiting to taste despair

Yet

There is no turning back
There never was
Will each trudge
Towards the Promised Light

The landscape shifts
Paths become roads
Roads turn to ruin
Dust powders buildings
Rust and grime reign tall

Friday, 27 January 2017

[Poem] Contemplation


Waves
Abundant
Buoyant
On a waterless sea


Floating on the breeze
Euphoric sometimes melancholic


A music
Born of the soul
Fathered by emotion

They swim and float
No ebbs
Only tides and more
Storms rage
And cool winds moan

From your eyes
And mine
I can barely taste
The spray
Carried by the wind
No oceans hold
Nor land
Only the air
The devout messenger
Deliverer
Unto devout hands

Friday, 20 January 2017

[Poem] Miss. Love



I am a wraith
Fanning away at your bedewed forehead
A gentle breeze in a window less room

Sometimes
I am
A shy head shake
A fleeting thought
A fluttering heart beat
A tingle down your spine
A joyous song
A smile that weaves your lips
Uninvited

I am a mist
Rising and falling
With each breath
Living in utterances

I am shadow
Sinking in your silences

I am a fog
Engulfing your  contours
I fall as tears from adoring eyes
Only to dart back quickly
And snuggle deep
Amid your supple lips

Monday, 9 January 2017

[Poem] Anomaly

The giraffe sits on a car
The Sun hangs dangerously low
A clown grimaces at passerby below
Rabbits swing threaded to a pole
A whale halts poised over an antelope
Ambulances wait patiently behind busses and scooters

At the local toy store...

[Poem] The Neem Tree

                                    Image from:http://dristals.deviantart.com/art/Dying-planet-304082278

I sit here
In this plush hall
Wooden panelled
With leaf inlays in gold
Sofas of rosewood and teak
Covered in leather
Await invasion
The carpet is green
'Green is good for the eyes'
They say
I wait, desperation mounting
For you.

The search began with a dream long forgotten
Of that summer...


In the duclet shade
We played
The sweet wind blew
It rained tender yellow petals
and berry showers of jade
'They are grapes'
You proffered
In recall
They taste sweet
We strung them together
in crooked necklaces
Jagged embellishments
that fell
Crushed and stained our clothes
As we knelt down
And I learnt to write
My first words
My first times table
The world echoed with our laughter
                                     Image from:  http://evanyia.deviantart.com/art/The-earth-is-dying-171030766

Under the neem tree in the yard
 If I could stop time
I would stop it then

Since
Now, that you are gone
This desperate pilgrimage
To kindle a crumbling memory

My search ends
I know all is in vain
When
The manager laughs
He stares at me strangely
When he hears the year
'We took down all the trees
A long time ago'

I whirl around dizzily
To find the spot
  From which all my memories grow

A sudden fear grips me
And I begin to see the dead
Animals, the dead tress in a
Dying Planet