Author Archives: Santosh

About Santosh

An educationist with a passion for writing , having published some novels for young adults, some essays and some poems. My poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi will soon be published .

The deserted Garage

The deserted garage looked
  inconspicuous and drab,
grease-stained and bleak,
its large metal gates woebegone and rusted.
 The winter  chill
seemed to have shorn it of all colour.
  
As night fell, a stray dog
headed towards it whimpering in the cold.
Then as if by magic, three other strays
appeared from down the street
and soon snuggled next to each other
 on the cold and rough concrete.
  
Now, together the foursome braved the cold,
the deserted garage, now no longer deserted,
beamed at the cuddlers’ canine congeniality,
filled it was with new vitality.

The Golden Silhouette



She silently goes about doing household chores.
Kneading flour, washing clothes, sweeping, mopping.
Resilient. Unstopping.
Her hands communicating with the stove,
with the fuel, with the rusted pots and pans,
with the strands of her rough hair.
Not a groan escapes her lips,
not a moan.

The soft whisperings of her cheap synthetic saree,
keep her company. Her knee protests a silent protest.
When will this chill go?
She continues creating magic with her nimble hands-
the miracle woman.
Kneading flour, washing clothes, sweeping, mopping.
Resilient. Unstopping.
Her pinched face and straggly hair, unwashed, grimy.
She again shivers, feeling cold.
The sun rays fall on her hair.

Magic!
Lo and behold!
The impoverished woman no longer feels cold
and is now sheathed in gold.

Long cascading hair falls unfettered on the unlettered woman’s shoulders.
The sunlight bounces off it. Happy. Fiery.

A bird flies in the blue beyond, untethered.
Magic unfolds right before my eyes and I gape
at the Midas’ touch of the sun.

Looking at the golden silhouette,
I yank myself away from all bleak thoughts,
inhaling a fresh new fragrance of a new beginning.


Wildflowers sway merrily to the happy beats
of my rejuvenated heart.
I am once again a new-born, glowing,
flowing –with the rhythm of the miracle just witnessed.

I smile up at the skies.
All apprehensions become redundant,
as the light of a new dawn, splashes around.
Sparkling. Abundant.


Rhythms



Countless egrets surf the blue sky beyond
while spunky squirrels down below
explore nooks and crannies for hidden treasures.
One egret swoops down playfully on a buffalo’s back,
and a noisy group of sparrows peck at pods
fallen from the tamarind tree,
 not distracted by the tail of the buffalo,
swinging to its own rhythm.  
.
 
In a shady corner, vibrant dahlias, orange, pink, and violet,
oft white-tipped, bloom with great ardour, and on the wall
sunlight flickers like a bird, restive and fidgety
 as green tea is poured into expensive cups,
through silver kettles in high rise buildings
 a few feet away.

The clouds above explode in white and a little gray too
against the backdrop of peacock blue.  
While a man in a disheveled tracksuit
runs and runs,
 tripping- tripping-tripping,
his mask
slipping- slipping- slipping,
but his tenacious grip on hope unslipping.
  
A mongrel whelps as the petrified man asks himself, tense,
will staying indoors really help- will it?
And runs faster – faster – faster.
The pied Kingfisher atop the telephone wire looks on, askance. 

Trinkets


Through the chinks in my curtains,
I see an undernourished woman
with calluses on her palms, dirt on her fingernails,
an equally undernourished, cranky  child in her arms
and a cheap nose-ring in her nose.
 She picks up a wilted rose, and hands it to her kid,
who bursts into a chuckle of delight at this bonanza,
in which he finds nothing trite.
  

On an impulse, he flings away the rose,
as now it is a sunray dancing on his mother’s nose-ring
 that has sent him into a tizzy.
 The sunray now shifts to the bald pate
 of an obese man gingerly getting out of his latest acquisition- a brand new car. 
 The twinkle in the child’s eye has now become a star,
 his gaze transfixed on the dancing ray.
 His eyes dance with joy at the glint in his mother’s nose-ring.
 The man’s eyes admire his reflection in the gleaming car.  
These different hues of joy, I watch mesmerized from afar,   
wondering which one is a trinket – the nose ring or the car.
 

A robust indifference



What does one do to pass time?
 What masque, what music? How
shall we beguile
The lazy time, if not with some
delight?
Asked the bard, dreamily, long, long back
when humanity was not yet on the rack.   

The other day I sat beguiling the sad time,
 watching videos of cute kittens,
licking their mother, purring their delight.

There was a funny one of a kitten, in feline poise,
blissfully perched on a tortoise. Meow, meow, it said,
 chewing on a slice of bread,
still clinging to its mother,
smothering her with kisses.


Then there was the video of a young mother,
a human one this time, roaring like a lioness
to make her toddler snap out of her sulk.
 Out she snapped with a bulky chortle,
spewing forth all her bottled-up appreciation
of her mommy’s efforts at making her laugh.
 I laughed too, through lips
forever tilting downwards these days.


Then-
 Yes, it was then that I saw that video,
so heart- wrenching, of a migrant labourer mother – silent,
lying breathless at the railway platform,
as her half -clad kid tried to wake her up from deep sleep
 while the elder one moved around in a futile bid,
  to revive his dead mother with a bottle of water
who, alas, was lost to the world, unaffected by her kids’ efforts.


She went on sleeping, untouched by her kids’ weeping.
Two bags with her meagre belongings
lying forlornly on her side.
 
They say she died of hunger, heat and dehydration,
but don’t we know in our heart of hearts, that the poor,
emaciated woman – homeless in her own home,
actually died due to our robust indifference?

  • This poem was triggered by the death of a migrant woman at MuzaffarNagar railway platform ,[ Bihar , India ] on 25 May , 2020 , a video of this tragic incident had later gone viral .

The Long walk Home

 The homeless, the impoverished, all forlorn,
were plodding on towards home,
 rendered distraught by a mere virus,
and even the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

“There is some food back home in our village,
 the company people asked to vacate,
there was no option, and we had to leave.”
Said one with a funereal air.
Onwards trooped the hapless group,
towels wrapped around their heads,
as protection against the sun, praying for that hopeful morn.
But even the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

Carrying emaciated mothers in their arms, young kids on shoulders,
onward marched the laborers vaulting over roadblocks and boulders.

Armed with water bottles, packets of biscuits
and a handful of grit, onwards trooped they,
trying to find their way on the meandering paths of a dark dawn.


On one young man’s shoulders sat a tiny girl, lisping away,
 excited at the prospect of once again going back
 to her dadi in that remote village,
 listening to stories and thrilling folk lore , once again ,
unbeknownst  , that  their journey was the stuff
of which folklore was made.
  
Another tiny tot in frayed shorts
trotted beside his bedraggled dad,
“How far? I am tired dad”, he said.

“Papa, it is morning, look the sun is shining”, muttered the girl
But the father knew

 that even the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.


The silence screamed, the emptiness howled,
overhead the sinister clouds growled,
the little one burst into an agony of childish grief,
and no leaf stirred, no bird trilled,
as the afternoon sun blazed on.
 And the dawn was dark; the dam had burst.

A Sliver

I sit near the window, ruminating,
riveted to the sounds of an ear- splitting silence.
Masked humanity lumbers in the dark,
stark terror etched on faces.


In the room, Leonard Cohen soulfully sings
about cracks in everything,
I hear a pigeon yodeling,
and a tiny robin puffs out its chest,
 testing its notes in the silent air.


On my mental screen, I see an octogenarian, in a hospital room,
thumping a triumphant fist in the air,
 silently celebrating his victory over the virus.


 I glimpse a sliver of bright light,
 insinuating itself through a crack
and flooding the gloomy room.
 The pigeon yodels on,
and the robin appears to have struck the right note

 after all the testing.

On my virtual wall

On my virtual wall, I see icicles hanging from my friend’s window
in some far off land, daffodils springing surprises
at another friend’s door in Seattle, and ducks floating merrily.
I breathe the whiff of bougainvillea
growing untrammeled on another friend’s boundary wall.

Yet, socially distanced, I’m, so far away, my tactility at bay.
Far, far away.
It tugs at my heart that I cannot touch, I cannot hug,
but believe me, I can feel the waft of love
reaching me across boundary walls.I place a call to a very dear friend in Italy,
who gushes excitedly,
advising me lovingly of what to do and what not,
in these sad, anxious times.
‘We will definitely meet in better times’ she promises,
‘and remember, we shall overcome.’
Yet, socially distanced, I’m, so far, far away, my tactility at bay.
Far, far away.
I close my eyes and see the moon beaming,
am I dreaming, or do I really hear
the moon’s intoxicating rhythm?
Yes, I am a dreamer’ ….
And I see ‘the dawn before the rest of the world.’

Ah, there it comes – but on tip toe, like a scared cat.
I peer through my window and listen, rapt.
To the sounds of silence- raucous and chaotic.Life goes on.
A little distance away, at a construction site, the fight is on.
As another concrete structure rears its head skywards.
Suddenly words leave me in the lurch as a sparrow perched
on a tree bursts into a song of freedom. So clear. Not at all distant.
Yes, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one,
Lennon sings in my head and I too start to hum,
convinced that we shall definitely overcome.
Yes, I am a dreamer …. And I see the dawn before the rest of the world.
A love-filled dawn, when my tactility will no longer be at bay
and social distances will once again be overcome.

Who mangled the lines ?

Who mangled the lines ?

Why does my heart feel shrivelled ?
Bedevilled by a thousand and one woes ?
Who are the foes stalking me at every juncture ,
puncturing my zest , my lust for life ?
The Konstantin Yuon painting on the wall fronting me ,
looks on accusingly .
The Cornflowers in a ray of Sunshine ,
no longer shine as I pine for the pristine purity of that past of mine ,
when elephantine hatred had not crept into our entrails ,
when the serene , soothing breeze
cruising merrily in the verdant trees
had not morphed into a grotesque gale ,
when the pallid lines fringing the clouds still had a silver hue .
Who mangled the lines ?
Who forgot the cue – of love ?
Who strangled the dove ?
What grotesquery killed that happy song , which had a cadence so fine ?

Let me get back into the ring

L

 Let me put the gloves on and get back into the ring,
slay all the demons, perk up to work on a new song to sing.

                                                             
On my mental screen, I still see a small shikara, back home,
humming its way to the shore, as we sing along,
 and the other shikaras resounding with sounds
of once more.
Once more, overwhelmed by the scent of water lilies,
I imagine a warm pearly dawn,
foretelling a breathtakingly beautiful, crisp day.

 Ah, there I am again, lying in shallow water,
in languorous warmth, rocked ever so gently
 by the faint, rippling song of the waves;
why cave in to despair, then?

 I recall how the night descended, so soft, so cool,
 the sharp, soothing song of the cicadas pouring over us,
infusing a new life into our tired feet and overwhelmed heart.

It was the distilled essence of life in its merry hues.  
Somewhere an engine of a motor boat
died away in a final sputter,
but we were home, alive and kicking.


So, let me put on a pair of new gloves and get back into the ring,
slay all the demons, perk up to work on a new song to sing.




sing.