Author Archives: amitapaul

The Jewelled Birdcage : The Beauty of Poetic Homage

I know why the caged bird sings
( Maya Angelou )

( America’s Young Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman wears a Birdcage Ring as she recites ‘ The Hill We Climb ‘ at the Biden -Harris Inaugural on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 20-1-2021
Maya Angelou wrote ‘ Caged Bird ‘ in 1983 )

Sister
Woman
Black Human Being
Poet

I honour you
I carry you forward
In my being
And in my words

Not all children
Are born of the body
Not all DNA
Is physical
Not all descendants
Are from one genealogy

I am
Because you were
I speak
Because you spoke
I sing
Because you sang

I am at liberty
Because your mind was free

But I know
I must be more
And I am
And I shall be

The Caged Bird
Is now the Uncaged Eagle

I continue
Every minute , Mother
to untrammel
Me
To untrammel
You
It’s my thing
To do

I offer you the jewelled homage
Of a Beryl Bird
In a Golden Birdcage
For all my sweetness
I have not lost
The ability to rage

No
We are not inured
Liberty
Is never assured
So I am spare
Agile , alert
Alive , articulate
Eloquent,
As you had meant
Lyrical , melodious
Love- filled , glorious
And lithe
As a scythe

I will never allow
My sword blade to rust
Never not dare
To do all I must

It’s your time to rest
As I take forward your best
And trust
When put to the test
We shall all be thus blest

Thus womankind
Mankind
Poetkind
Has ever pursued
It’s endless quest

Poetry
Dies never
As ever
Since Eden
Till Kingdom Come
My poem
Sings of Freedom

( Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia )

Guru Gobind

That human agony which is spiritual ecstasy
That burns luminescent in your divine breast
That love which asks for nothing but the best
That passion which will never accept rest

That unquenchable light in your eyes
Which some have called two narcissus flowers
The fragrance that drifts from their beauty
Three centuries down reminding one of duty

The saint who is a soldier , teacher – father
The warrior who is a poet , penniless king
The emperor of the world , owner of nothing
From him go , Heart , all inspiration bring

Your love that I cannot describe and yet I must
That keeps me filled with tears I cannot shed
Your being that within me you have bred
I try to express – can’t express a shred

Your Blue Horse , your red – thread – eyed Falcon
The Aigrette on your Saffron turban, torn robe
Your feet riddled with thorns , your heart with wounds
Your stone pillow , your prayer – poem – song

Beloved Friend , hear the plight of your disciples
Without you , home is a nest of snakes
My warm bed a diseased bundle, cursed is comfortable life
My chalice is a twisted butcher’s knife

Your desert is my oasis , for it’s sake
I would throw Rosegardens into a furnace
Beloved , I long for your glance of grace
Beloved , I yearn to see your radiant face

And this is what you say to me
This for your sake I need to be
What you have done I too must do
To become just a bit like you

Only when you have sacrificed every worldly joy
Can you write the Epistle of Spiritual Victory
Only when you have tasted bitterest agony
Will you be crowned with divine ecstasy

( ASA )

Dreams and Realities

In the raw wind of a new world
Awakens the trumpet of a prophecy
Fled is that music – do I wake or sleep ?
Was it a vision , or a waking dream ?

Beautiful dreamer ! Wake unto me
For I on honey dew have fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise

Dear Lady ! Friend devoutest of my choice !
Thus may thou ever , evermore rejoice !

And still she slept an azure- lidded sleep

( ASA )

In the Moment

In the moment
When the Sun rose
And the ice shone

In the moment
When the flower unfroze
Into soft light

In the moment
When mutability became
Luminescence

In the moment
When warmth unshackled
Fragile beauty

In the moment
When ephemerality
Turned eternal

In the moment
When a sunbeam melted
My numb heart

In the moment
When winter ended
Within the soul

In the moment
When frost on the flower
Turned to dew

In the moment
Hope bloomed again
I thought of you

( ASA )

Fire , Sweetness , Heaven


I have lived in wild houses
In forests
Smitten with open fires outdoors
Wood burning fireplaces
And hearths indoors
The stored warmth of the Sun
reaching out from the logs to embrace me
Warm my body my limbs my face
Make winter a celebration
I have roasted my food in those embers
Wiped off the ashes , pealed and eaten
Tubers and pods for breakfast
After cooking in pots on the tall flames
At night my dinner
Food fire warmth comfort
Why do I live in a city now
Now that I am old
And cold concrete walls chill me to the bone
And food cooked on a gas stove is so impersonal ?
When shall I smell the warm sweet fragrance
Of cane juice simmering to liquid goal
On squeezed sugarcane stalks
burning in the furnace below
And drink it like a bumblebee drowned in nectar
Till I think sweet draughts of warmth
Warm draughts of sweetness shall never end
And slip quietly into heaven while flames embrace
My earthly remains ?
O heavenly dreams of golden candied jaggery
Still warm from the simmering pot and the wood fire , soft on my tongue and melting in my mouth
Dissolving into my very being
Transforming me to sweetness
Soul – Pure Soul –
Luminous embracing Heaven
My Pyre is my Lyre !
Gur is my Guru
God is a winter wood fire

( Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia)

Still Life With Cinnamon Rolls

In the stillness of my life
Thoughts cascade

No Still Life painting , I thought
Can be complete without flowers
Or fruit

A picture
Then snuck into my consciousness
Of cinnamon rolls with raisins
A capsicum and herb patty
A small cup of dark espresso
With a tiny almond biscuit nestling in the plate
Beside a tinkly spoon
Cherry jam red and luscious
A glass of tangy juice of tangerines
All on a round wooden tray
Decorated with a golden brown and white pattern
Of curlicues
On the deep maroon tablecloth
Of an ebony table

I forgot all about fruits and flowers
Wouldn’t you ?

(ASA )

Merry Christmas

There’s pudding in the steamer
And roast ready to carve
There’s gravy in a creamer
And no one’s going to starve

There’s Daddy dressed as Santa
Red suit White beard and all
There’s much laughter and banter
And Holly in the hall

Our thanks rise in a chorus
For blessings great and small
So here’s to a Merry Christmas
And may God bless us all

( ASA )

How it all panned out

You need have said nothing but the one thing that mattered again and again
And again :
But then , you would have needed to believe in it too , completely .
It was your half belief that killed your unripe thesis;
I really wonder if you are sorry about it now though you were shattered at the time .
What you did not fully believe in you should not have said and certainly not have dragged anyone else into .
I am not happy , merely relieved , that I never really believed you .
I merely wish I could have laughed a little more .
Sadly , you found it cruel.
I wish then that I could have been crueller .
That would have been truly kind .

( ASA )

The Protest Singer

Fiction

THE PROTEST SINGER

It was a cold morning but Mitthoo was in high spirits . His friend Harinder was reading the newspaper while Satinder was tying his turban . “ The temperature will fall to 4 degrees Celsius tonight .They say this is the coldest winter in 70 years in Delhi, “ said Satinder . “ I know the cure for that . Let us have some tea and begin our singing. I wrote 10 songs for this very event in the past two months since the troubles began , “ said Mitthoo , and he was as good as his word .

He had been singing at the top of his voice to the rhythmic accompaniment of his old tambourine , with thousands around him listening :

“ We are here to win
We will return only when
Victory crowns our heads
Tell that to those
Who plan to resist us “

His listeners nodded , clapped and sang the chorus with him . Everyone was in high spirits .Mitthoo was one of the best motivational singers in the entire historic protest camp of nearly 200000 people . This tent was for people of his region and he sang in the regional language forming an instant bond with his listeners and lifting their mood as they sat on the freezing roads hundreds of miles from home . He reinforced their faith in the justness of their cause . As it noon struck , the call for the community lunch came , and the sitting broke up .

“ Come along , Mitthoo , let’s have some of this lovely hot cauliflower and potato curry , before it gets cold “ said his friend Harinder . Satinder came over as well and the three friends joined the queue at one of the food tents where free food for the protestors in their thousands was being served . As they ate their chapatis and vegetables with relish , they chatted about the children and womenfolk back at home and how they were managing the wheat crop without the men who were miles away at the protest site .

All afternoon and evening Mitthoo sang with his fellow singers or by himself raising the morale of the protestors . The leaders came back from high level meetings with hopeful news . Mitthoo and Harinder sang songs of victory , had dinner and found a warm spot with blankets to sleep in inside the Khalsa Aid Tent , though the ground cover of a simple durree could not shut out the cold from the Tarmac road below . Tired , the friends fell asleep immediately.

At 7 am the tea server Tanjeet came carrying a big aluminium pot of hot sweet tea and some glass tumblers asking the sleepers to wake up . Harinder got up , took a glass and held it up while Tanjeet poured tea into it . Satinder sat up as well . “ God is Great, Brother ! “ they said to one another .

But why was Mitthoo not getting up ? Satinder poked him with his elbow but there was no response . Tanjeet and Mitthoo called to him and shook him but he was stiff and cold , eyes shut and not breathing . Alarmed , they raised an alarm and the tent chief rushed for the camp doctor .

By 7.30 am it was confirmed : Mitthoo had died of a stroke in the cold . The Protest had claimed its first Martyr . The newspaper said the temperature had fallen to 2 degrees Celsius the previous night .

( ASA )

People who look like Poems

These People who look like Poems themselves
Teaching us how to live
Teaching us how to die
Who sing the hymns of Guru Nanak
Who make their enemies quake with fear

These People who look like Poems themselves
Who come walking from their fields
Who awaken sleeping Humanity
They sing the couplets of Saint Kabir
Their enemies flee quaking before them

These People who look like Poems themselves
Grow grain from the Earth
They feed the whole of Mankind
They sing the holy songs of Sufi Fareed
They invoke Timeless Truth by their singing

They have risen to awaken the land of Ind
No doubt their enemies have evil plans
But their Guru has blessed them with Grace
They have lifted up their clenched fists with unshakeable courage
They are not daunted , not a whit

These People who look like Poems themselves
Teaching us how to live
Teaching us how to die
Who make their enemies quake with fear
Who sing the hymns of Guru Nanak

They invoke Timeless Truth
These People who look like Poems themselves

( Amita Sarjit Singh Ahluwalia )