Author Archives: Sunil Sharma

About Sunil Sharma

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award---2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015. Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA: http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html For more details, please visit the blog: http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/

Reclaiming a Home in Bunyah

—Sunil Sharma

Les Murray returns from Sydney

To reclaim a personal heritage –

His childhood home

Full of memories of

Time spent on

A dairy farm;

Of a woodcutter father

Working hard there,

Mother who died,

And a feud silent

Between a grandfather

And a dad,

Unable to forget and forgive,

The trees full of white ants,

That killed one of the siblings.

The promised farm never materialized,

And his dad went back to the tree-cutting,

In order to survive;

The return from Sydney

Was reclaiming his regional

Australian roots,

And finding again there

The continent’s true face!

Among the aboriginals, farmers and authors,

The great Murray,

The Bard of Australia,

Discovered the Soul of his

Culture that was missing

In the glittering cities.

Urban centers are

Alike these days

Everywhere but the way

Farmers in rural Australia

Work hard against the odds,

Gets mirrored in poets and writers,

And like aboriginals,

These communities carry nature

Within their selves as sacred,

And that act of getting connected

With nature in a sublime way,

Makes Murray the great voice,

Booming,

Coming down from

Outback/ steppes/deserts

You hear often,

On lonely nights,

On the desolate highways,

Echoing loudly –

In the fevered,

Rational,

Calculating,

Profit-seeking,

Stock-exchange-fixed

Minds and hearts.

(A literary tribute to the iconic poet, now no more)

Why poetry in toxic times?

Why Poetry in Toxic Times?

Poetry can be discovered in most unlikely places.

For example, sitting in the atrium of a big mall, facing a gushing fountain on a hot humid May-end Mumbai evening, you say to your companion, surrounded by all the twinkling fairy lights and fir potted trees placed strategically on the white marble floor, “How poetic!” The crystalline water jet shooting up in a column against a darkening sky in the middle of a soulless glass-n-concrete and sanitized property can be a great diversion for a tired shopper left poorer by few thousands by that sexy and seductive commercial space: The vertical movement of pure drops of H2O can be a big visual relief in a place that registers the maximum footfalls these days in Mumbai or Madrid, Delhi or Peshawar. Malls are the new temples and churches for the post-modern Odysseus hunting for treasures and exotic fare and the urban tribes in Dubai or Kenya find time there to congregate. In such anonymous but identical architectural complexes— in homogenized and standardized settings, amid fake plants and plastic smiles of the overworked and grossly underpaid young poor staff; outside/inside the dazzling shops and their inviting wares, cruising along the well-preserved floors and regularly sanitized loos, gawking at the bald zero-figure mannequins under ark lamps and hunting for mineral water bottle that  costs a fortune for your recession-hit middle-class fake-leather wallet— you get a feeling of derivative power and branded kinship with others  in New York or Berlin. After gleefully splurging more than you have ever planned and secretly planning to go ascetic for a whole year in your personal expenditure, you, the tired Ulysses, decide to sit down on an empty bench and then—suddenly discover the solitary fountain singing merrily on the hot and humid evening. For the other adjacent happy chatterers on the Blueberry, it is a fixture, a prop; for you, it is sheer poetry in a pricey impersonal place, a symbol of purity and eternity. Poetry in slow motion. Water that priceless thing triggers a primeval response in a subterranean crevice of your overtaxed brain and connects you immediately with the first spontaneous priests of raw nature that wandered the earth, at the dawn of the civilization. You feel transported to a dim age when your distant ancestors conversed eagerly with early gods and twinkling stars and swaying trees and murmuring rivers, finding everything in the universe living and sacred. They talked with the gods and gods with them under starry nights and on fresh dawns, near crystalline rivers full of marine life. All this harmony was recorded in delightful and sublime verses, in epic poetry by the all-seeing ancient minds. There were few facilities then but poetry was a presiding deity of their immediate life; to-day, there are facilities galore but poetry, that musicality, that harmony, is sadly absent. Or, almost. The poetic spirit has started disappearing in prosaic times. Begun withdrawing from an age that is high on high-tech but low on basic human emotions. Bonds are brittle—you care more for your China vase or crockery or Swarovski glass than your dear siblings or pals.

Poetry is like the Golden Barrel Cacti— critically endangered, rare species in the Mexican wild, yet surviving the tough conditions. It is like Welwitschia mirabilis, another hardy plant of the Namibian Desert of the South West Africa. Poetry is a surviving link with our heroic past, with our mythological memory, with a unique moment when man and god were not yet cruelly split but were real for the other and having a continual dialogue. Like these two plants, it is endangered and becoming exotic. But it is a great survivor that adapts to most arid conditions and challenging habitats and grows in most inhospitable climes and times. It is vital to a polluting age like an oxygen mask. It can detoxify your body filled with an overdose of pills, caffeine and nicotine and other drugs, and raked with a toxic desire for More (Remember Henderson, the Rain King?).

Poetry is like the first rains over a smoggy town: It washes away all the grime and revives the dormant seedlings and revitalizes the corroded cores of your inner- life. It is a strong anti-dote to a frightening spiral of mad chasing of the deadly deadlines on daily basis, mechanically performing all the time in office and home and suffering indifferent colleagues, public venues and neighbourhoods that define social existence of competing individuals, and dreaming dollars and economic migrations inside/outside the country of your origin. Poetry is like the first rays of dawn that greet a terminal patient in a grim facility and spreads cheer in a solitary life on the threshold of cessation or a burnt-out top executive fighting for more money and promotion and his bad hangover.

Finally, poetry is coming face to face with your spiritual truths that refuse to be commodified and reified by a mass culture. It fulfills you and makes you whole, like the tiny church-bells chiming on a wintry desolate evening in the Chekhovian land.

Yes, we are the

 Warriors

Of poetry

Who

 Uphold the standards

In war zones

And never ever

Make them fall.

@Sunil Sharma

(From: Preface: Mundane, My Muse)

An old timer remembers

Sunil Sharma

Look!

The high-rises there.

Once, till few years ago,

Those were the fields

Worked by the farmers.

Paddy fields that added to the

Greenery created by

The magic of the full monsoons.

Small patches where vegetables were grown

And small ponds with the bent palm trees

Catching the gentle moon-beams.

We walked down to that paradise in the suburban Mumbai

Smelling the earth, after every first rains.

There were trees around and bird-songs

Alas!

Now—

All that is gone!

Only buildings rising up

As bald giants

Above

The untouched

Few clumps of trees

Covered in the soot and exhaust,

Only concrete roads with crazy traffic

All divine songs gone.

Floods of 2005

That drowned Mumbai.

Tsunamis, most places.

Toxic air.

Warmer winters.

Cooler summers.

And the monsoon of 2018

Almost—still-born!

Residents in metros

Pay for the crimes

Of the greedy builder lobby

That kills: The mangroves; ponds; fields

And the maternal trees that nurture cultures

But these developers, sadly,

Always forget to plant.

(Credit: Contemporary Literary Society)

Where are you, dear Charles Baudelaire?

In the summer of 2014
—not long ago in a fast-changing high-tech universe that
deletes conversations—
I saw a bearded tramp, on one of the boulevards
Of Paris: A homeless man, that glittering evening, sitting
under
the imposing façade of a multinational American bank with
revolving doors and a uniformed guard; the structure smelt of
a raw power and the strange scent of capital; made
formidable by design
—a brownstone with glass-n-chrome but let us not bother the
reader about such physical details in a scene dimly recalled in
a suburban Mumbai apartment by a mind, dulled by the
dreary prose of the post-industrial realities of a globalised
world that integrates, only to fragment subjectivities and
points-of-view, under a monolithic narrative—
Along with a dog—a constant companion and guard against
the muggers; just imagine the depravity of these crazy guys,
trying to rob such homeless ones? —that
barked only against the suits, all in a hurry to catch the fastest
modes of reaching gated destinations in some upscale sections
beyond the Seine, and never once glancing at that Caucasian

trespasser, a poor remnant of humanity in a city that once
saw the events of 1789 that changed the histories of practically
each nation.
I wondered about you, dear Charles, at that moment,
that critical intersection of contemporary and old France,
once revolutionary, now talking of chic fashion and threat
posed by immigrants.
I asked few French friends in the know: Have you seen
Baudelaire?
They shrugged off and asked: Which Baudelaire, my Indian
friend?
Should not we visit some salon for pleasure and later the Big
Mac?
I was stunned!
The Underground. The other side once revealed with flourish by
a cursed poet.
The man who toured the dark labyrinth of a city as a flaneur
and came up with evil flowers from its depths, now archived
in a dim corner of a museum, as bits of dusted collection from
the receding past.
Where are you, dear Charles?
Come down to document.
…and then this graffiti etched on one of the marble pillars of
an arched bridge, maybe as a response sent by a hovering
spirit:
And, drunk with my own madness, I shouted at him furiously,
“Make life beautiful! Make life beautiful!”

@Sunil Sharma

(Courtesy: http://alfredasis.cl/ASIS_BAUDELAIRE.pdf, pp-702-3)

A bond continual

—Sunil Sharma
No longer
a mere physicality
but
become—
an essential part of
my being.
There,
Yet not there
like a game of shadow
and light
on a rainy day in
Mumbai.
Feeling your astral presence
on this Father’s Day—like every other day,
inside a remembering heart—for years together
now,
a lingering being
like the gnarled tree in the rural backyard.
The bond continues unabated
with a man who brought me home
and then, left for
a heavenly home—so suddenly!
i know you are there
up
some place
watching
like a guardian angel.

Chasms

The tragic gaps
widening as ever—

between a state of feverish dreaming and contrarian truth

idealism and reality in opposing cycles, perpetual

hope and negation; negation and hope

strife in peace and otherwise.

History—pickled and preserved in museums of minds, places and textbooks composed as per the expediency of a winning force, to be defeated and to rot like Ozymandias
the long pendulum swinging between what- was-to-be, what-was and what-was-not-to-be, nudging towards a future dripped in the grays of uncertainties, like the mists covering the far-off summits, there, yet not there, but visible to the inner eye of an awakened mind.

Memory of a promise, yet unfulfilled
the middle-class primness respectability manners and
prosperity—
maintained by the slave labour kept under the whip and proselytized by promise of heaven and a kingdom for the poor up above—somewhere

the costly life-style of the cruelty, on free estates—in the land of rising democracy
the white privilege posed for camera—for posterity
formal, affluent; men assertive proud; women with dainty caps and demure smiles, decked up, the dolls of the colonial narrative
the power/dominance of a wealthy section and superior colour— framed by a sturdy house with porticoes and discussions of Rousseau and Voltaire in alien settings of dark plantations in a continent over run by exiles
now that splendour—all a shard buried

that vista viewed from the deck of time
the moments of today and gone
lingering or lapsed in the sinking marshes

unlikely combos—meshed together as crushed seeds
in an urban yard gone to the dogs, the master/hunter missing

and
a poetic mind remembering the futility
of all such ideologies thriving on bloodshed
and inequalities.

(Inspired by Louis Kasatkin’s poem: Lamentations)**

** Editorial Footnote
The original poem referenced can be viewed on this Site.

Poetry!

Without poetry,

hmm, well, well,

the world is nothing

but prose.

Yawn!!!

How scary!

This reality.

Poetry,

malleable

shape-shifting.

It is

a heart that sings

24X7,

despite being hooked to a catheter

or plugged with a stent

in an ICU

where death and life flicker

like a candle in the air.

Poetry—

finds music

in prose

and makes the same words

dulled with use

into great lyrics

that folks often hum

on rainy nights

to soothe frayed nerves

and/or, lift

the crushed

spirits.

Realization

That day he understood.
the laundry to be put out
and the lunch boxes to be made, before the
bus arrived to take the kids, bit before
mid-day…and other chores,
without any respite!

the maid played truant
as if destiny wanted it that way only.
she, the wife, ill
waking up
drifting back
pale-faced.

he, running around
the suburban Mumbai apartment
answering door bells, cold calls, couriers
and storing filtered water in bottles
due to daily shortage

then straightening the rooms
piling the newspapers into a bundle
managing the washing machine
and the office e-mails, simultaneously
or, almost
—he, working from home, that hot day,
muttering sotto voce, all the obscenities—
his feet running off a tired body
about to tilt like the Tower of Pisa
or, whatever…

the manager- guy understood perfectly
what does it mean to be a superwoman
with multiple hands
sweat dripping
a galley slave
but never-ever grunting!

those sexy ads
of working women
becoming a grim reality.

the being that was a 24X7 machine
invisible!
the machine then
morphing into a smiling wife
a great care-giver
to an ungrateful/uncaring
fat Indian middle-class family!

—Sunil Sharma

In your next letter



Ma, in the next letter, please tell me more about Pa’s health.
Bit worried. How are you coping with your cough? Did the elder brother
Send some money from the Gulf? Or, has he defaulted again?
He has his family, I know but he has to send his share.
How is your fever?
Do tell me in your letter these things, too.
I want to know everything happening there.
Letters are the only source of information.
Take the medicines regularly. Last time I visited, you looked a ghost.
More than two years now. I want to visit you again in my beloved village…
Ma, let me tell you—saw the home in the dream…and you. I had cried so much!
The brick walls crumbling…the doors battered…the cow dung-swept courtyard!
Yes, Ma. In the dream, I visited.
Saw you working in the kitchen, alone. Frail. White-haired. Eyes vacant..
Your hands shiver!
I got depressed!
Be careful.
Yes, the house was real. I saw all the details.
The thatched roof. The sacred Tulsi flower. And a half-moon hanging from the Margo tree in the corner.
The north- Indian village looked the same as ever. Dusty. Decrepit. Narrow alleys. Caste politics. The violence and the earlier murders.
How is the money-lender? Tell him your youngest son, a car driver, sends regularly the monthly money orders. He need not bother.
Do not worry. I work for 18 hours and save some money by being frugal.
Next time, I will, in rains, get the roof fixed of your room.
You can retire there without the leaking rain water.
And save some more money to be sent to the second married sister also. Tell her she has got her own brother.
Do not worry. If all children turn their backs on you and Pa, I am always there…Just take care.
Your little son is 22 and has got a full life ahead!
But, Ma, please… do write the next letter!

Sunil Sharma

—Courtesy: http://poetsonline.org/