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 .

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.

The dancing Duo


An ill- kempt, under-clad child
with a Santa cap on his head,
stumbled along singing a happy song,
awe-struck by his cap.

 
A robin hopped towards him, its red breast glowing,
eyes sparkling, tilted its tiny head and watched. 
Bitten by curiosity, it watched and watched,
 awe-struck by his cap.

Tap-tap-tap, danced away the tiny boy
in the Santa cap.
Hop-Hop-Hop, the robin also broke into a jig,
not bothered a fig
by the grotesquery of a violent world,
awe- struck by his cap.  


The little robin- redbreast and the little boy
in the red cap, tapped their tiny feet,
and danced and danced.  
Entranced, the world watched the merry steps
of the redbreast and the boy,
awe- struck by his cap.

The Pallid Sunlight

T

Did the sky now have a look of weary resignation,
or was it just a figment of my fertile imagination?
But tell me, did I also imagine the time
when it had smiled down at us with a soft indulgence,
crinkling its clear, blue eyes in merriment,
 perhaps bewitched by the girlish giggles that rose up to it,
in staccato bursts of mirth ?

When the fiery sunlight filtered through a green canopy,
unable to curb its curiosity, an aquamarine sky,
peeped through the gaps in the foliage,
a picture of blue vitality, while we tried to disturb
the frisky squirrels diligently carrying out their spring chores ,
and girlish giggles rose up to it ,
 in staccato bursts of mirth .

 Then the time when our tiny feet blithely walked upon
a patchwork of gold and brown, it beamed its golden smile,
 so happy, so vibrant; why does the aquamarine sky
 look, so bruised now, a ghost of its former self?
Ah, I know, its pallid eyes hunt for those girls whose
 giggles have now fallen silent, alas , and no longer rise up to it
 in staccato bursts of mirth.
 

My grand mom

M


The toothless grin, and the acerbic warmth,
highly spirited and so wonderfully gruff,
sending many away with a flea in the ear,
 a shock of white hair as though ruffled by the waves.
Yes, the waves that she had left behind
in her beloved homeland, Kashmir.
 Yes the waves that rippled and roared,
and to their encore she listened in this far -flung place ,
glistening eyes, a picture of septuagenarian grace
 raging intervals of amnesia , hallucination ,
chanting maledictions on that pheran clad  cousin
who eavesdropped on their door when she and grandpa ,
well……..
whispered sweet- tidbits into each other’s ears.
 Often grumpy,
my grandma was a Mary Oliver poem,
simple but majestic.   
In her own world she lived, forgetful at times,
often humming those forgotten Kashmiri rhymes.
She sat on her cane chair,
perhaps watching  gazelle Time
hopping, sprinting, galloping at a headlong pace,
diving deliriously, leaping,
plunging forward to win some race.
Ears riveted to those clear and fresh voices
ringing through the pristine air.  

  Slowly a lassitude settled over her frail body,
a sluggishness in that vibrant bloodstream,
and she disappeared
into a mist of memories.

A pleasing serenity



A pleasing serenity juxtaposed
against what looks like pompous battle scenes
 blabbermouth teens, like gloating warriors,
bestride heavily prancing steeds,
galloping north, then going south,
armed with a resilience stout.  

My mind is overcrowded with memories,
unspooling ceaselessly .
Shriveled memories having survived buffetings and storms,
fretful disappointments, chaos and confusion,
now all a- twinkle , crinkling in merriment .
There they nestle, unfading.
More precious than   Persian rugs,
 or rare artefacts of antique silver,
they glow in the dark, stark naked, shorn of all artifice,
overshadowed by toothless grins,
one of my granny,  one my own,
as I , a restless toddler sat in  her lap,
 happy in every small bone.    
Now, the memory sits unmoving,
as though carved in stone.