Author Archives: Sunil Sharma

About Sunil Sharma

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 22 published books: Seven collections of poetry; three 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/

Roaming the muttering streets with Mr. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized on a table;

And there, you, Mr. Eliot, my companion,

On these grey half-deserted Indian streets,

Searching for that overwhelming question,

Should I ask now?

Well, the streets go on un-ending,

Arguments in closed bedrooms

That go on and on,

Never resolving in the humidity and heat

Of coastal Mumbai;

I find that we still talk of you,

In elite drawing-rooms and stuffy academe,

Mr. Eliot, the prim and proper gentleman,

And a classicist surveying inner/outer

Wastelands,

Despite a post-colonial experience

Of more than seven decades!

Is it not very strange?

Redefining current selves/ ourselves through your

Blue lens.

(Credit: Thresholds. Sunil Sharma. New Delhi: Authors Press. 2015. ISBN: 978-9352070541)

Migrants

Under the tree, they wait, huddled in groups, these

workers, part of the floating population that keeps the

megapolis floating. the workers in lungis and denim, wearing

hankies to ward off the Cornoa-19, wait for their turn, near the

police station, ready with the certificates. The out-of-job men

await their turn before the Sahibs; a group of real stoics, these

men of the slums, hungry and famished,

their dusty villages beckon mother-like,

the poor wage earners, in the long

lockdown,

these republicans, long forgotten by the system.

(Publication credit: Poetry in Quarantine edited by Dr Savita Deogirkar and Dr Shaleen Singh)

Ma—the Miracle!

Mothers— silent miracles of God!

Storms, summers, winters

you are sheltered for life

under their kind eyes

and outstretched arms!

Like a tree slim, gnarled

they always give shade

and fresh breath

and

comfort to the world-weary

and wounded bodies

through healing hands

and un-seeing eyes that see

a lot!

When the old tree is abruptly—-

taken down

by the fierce tempest

raging around in the solitude,

on a cloudy afternoon

or a lonely dusk in the metro-city,

you stand exposed

and totally lost

among the ruins of the

bleeding hearts—forever!

@Sunil Sharma

The COVID-19 Sky

The birds on the top branches

of the slender trees that sway

drunkenly in the fresh breeze,

the pigeons circle in the blue expanse

the dusky clouds spread out fast, with a promise of

the delayed Mumbai-rain, this humid

afternoon,

the winged beings and nature in kinetic mode

out there, up, in happy flocks

being watched enviously by the

solitary man from behind the

grilled-windows

of a locked-down home

in a fearful city gone static

and quiet!

A City Remembered by a Descendant

The long winds sweeping across the old Badaun,

In gentle yellow October,

I can still feel singing in my ears,

Their cold breath kisses my face and

Rubs my frigid heart,

The winds

Still playful and laughing,

Run their long fingers in my hairs,

Lovingly—

Like a dead Mum calling

Her orphan child,

From across the divide of time and space.

The gray-white pigeons come circling

To finally settle on the gleaming spires and minarets,

Of tombs forgotten,

Still standing erect and tall

In the feeble sunlight,

The rays

Streaming down in rapid fall

Of golden dust

Scattering around,

That lends a magical touch

To the entire ancient city,

Where the past glorious

Intersect with mundane present,

A city,

Enshrined and etched

Permanently in my

Remembering, aching heart,

On lonely metropolitan nights

Spent caged, on the sixteenth- floor house,

Where you peer down but cannot see

Things crawling below—mere moving dots—

In the blurred lit spaces beneath.

The holy winds from Badaun,

My ancestral land, I feel within my parched soul,

And the scented air

Revives my thickening veins, dull pores and icy Arctic inside

A well-groomed body, i hear the banyan tree, once seen,

in my paternal grandfather’s outer compound, near the temple,

on the Patiala Sarai street, transports me back

to that home and community,

I hear the bells and evening chants

And a refreshed me—

Becomes a child again, in the presence

of the folks, now gone, yet

living!

@Sunil Sharma

On the Janta Curfew

This Sunday, March 22, across India

there is this self-imposed curfew by the

citizens ready to fight the COVID-19 virus

through volunteer isolation.

I hear, first time, the fluttering of the wings,

throaty sound of the pigeons, chirping of the

sparrows out there somewhere on the trees,

and,

the hissing of the warm breeze

and the leaves, clearly, as there is no traffic

and toxic fumes;

a strange tranquility descends

smog—missing

stillness prevails;

can see the crows and pigeons,

first time,

search for crumbs

in big flocks

on the quiet streets of Mumbai suburbs.

The sweet sounds unheard for last many years

are back—kind of divine music lost

and temporarily recovered for few

fleeting hours!

It is as if nature and its feathery denizens

had reclaimed the urban jungle via their

felt presence!

Dancing light

The golden orb
Lights up the
Rude parapets
Of the Old Fort
In New Delhi;

The November light
Tender and dispersed
Creates a visual
Son-at-Lumiere
On this late afternoon
Collapsing into a young night!
A flight of pigeons can be seen
Hovering in the sky,
Circling the top of the
 Royal library;
Nothing remains of the passage
Of cruel time in those ruins now,
Except the loud laugh of the young
Couples finding shelter in the
Fort of the Moguls,
From the prying eyes that ban
Love and laughter in today’s Dilli.
II
The light dances on the tamarind trees
As the travelling eyes watch the beams
Breaking into tiny particles on the grey
Evening, now coughing and groaning
On the highway to NOIDA,
The last swathes of fertile land
Survive the fat bulldozers,

And high-rises are still to arrive;
The dancing light lends magic
To a green landscape,
A soon-to-be a memory.

@Sunil Sharma

Scent of spring in snow: Travelling with Dr. Zhivago

I

 Train journeys are philosophical.

They are magical and transformative!

The black horse drawing the coupés diligently over terrain rough

The fearsome mouth belching fire that shines in the dim night

The burning coals being spread over the receding land

Embers few flying down in the outstretched hands of kids/adults alike

Train journeys—a visual delight, inspiring a canvas or a song

People getting up/down

Embraces loving and farewells warm—and teary for a mother waving only son to the battleground!

Locomotives weave their own tapestries across time-n-space

Puffing up, red-eyed, these horse-machines arrive at the termini

After a long travel across the denuded hills, vales and dusty plains;

Friendships get promptly forged, new perspectives formed over life;

From a window open or barred, the passengers watch

The rolling countryside or bustling cities and towns;

Platforms big or small have got their pull on a fevered mind

The retreating cabins; the red signal down; the sharp whistle sound

And the beckoning mountain ranges or looming forests talk to you

In that fleeting instant!

Dawns/dusks never look the same

Solitude and pure heavens paint them so different!

You see universe travelling with you on such wonderful nights!

Life is motion; not stasis—it is called evolution.

II

Mental journeys can be equally illuminating—if done with your favorite fictional characters!

You learn a lot about histories, heroic struggles and human condition in lands and time distant.

The very act of reading can resurrect such epic journeys done on trains for a promise or Promised Land.

Chapter 7 of  Dr. Zhivago details one such spectacular journey that intersects the grey realms of fiction and fact, and, a past that is present.

Travelling across the vast plains of Russia in an overcrowded train

With the Zhivagos for a distant Varykino can be an unsettling experience in 2015:

Conscripts; the displaced, the exiled, peasants, the landed gentry—all disparate Elements flung together in their compartment by the force of circumstance

Everybody fleeing from something/somebody in a nation convulsing;

The long train hurtling down through a Red Revolution not properly understood; Bewildered, anxious; a part of the stratified humanity melted as a single unit in the crammed space.

Various sights, sounds, smells and colours are seen across the Old Russia in upheaval and bloody change—now forgotten except this literary document of a crucial age.

Another crucible of our times!

Frightening for some!

Comforting for others!

Journeys same; yet so different.

III

Chapter 22.

And then Dr Zhivago, fleeing from past, remembers the spring, looking out of the window of the compartment, in the midst of a gloomy place!

Spring resplendent!

With its hint of change.

Spring in the air.

And you too recall a spring now forever lost in an urban sprawl and smog

A spring remembered looks more romantic than a real one.

Dr. Zhivago is trying to flee from the logic of history like others

A futile effort!

One can never flee from one’s destiny.

Some people get caught up in the cauldron of history and   cannot escape the effects incendiary

A family displaced, running to their old family home, stuck at many stations

Witnessing violence and change in an old system on the brink;

And then doctor-poet remembering the spring in the expansive white of the snow

Two seasons collide in a single moment!

Spring indeed had arrived in his exploited land!

On a personal level, doing this long trans-country train journey with Dr.  Zhivago,

The reader is subtly reminded that we carry our own springs within.

Some train journeys— forever remembered/ inscribed!

They are wonderful expeditions of discovery and self-discovery

On the tracks

Magical in effect—Alice-like

And deeply transforming!

(Credit: —https://www.amazon.com/Trainstorm-Edited-Amitabh-Mitra/dp/0620718307)

Evidence

in the sun-light

brightly-lit:

few yellow stains

—mere dots and tiny circles of daal-sabzi

on the glass-topped dining table

in the middle-class neighborhood

of Mumbai

provide tentative evidence:

either the young mother is not there

at home, this Sunday afternoon,

or,

she is unwell.

The stains and finer dust

invisible to others of the

joint-family members!

@Sunil Sharma

Gratitude

After the cruel, abrupt downsizing

The man leaves the office, forever

Face downcast, a bag in hand and

Few memories in a grieving heart.

The boulevard does not look like

The one experienced in the morning

Of the wintry New Delhi—crisp and smiling

And the crowded paths, pavements, similar, yet different!

Daily, years together, the man, now in 50s, walked the

Lanes and by-lanes of the Connaught Place

Afternoons, post-lunch, in the company of

Colleagues and friends from the nearby offices for Chai.

All that is past, within 24 hours! He stands at the same spot, near the

Tea vendor; being ignored by the same set; except the stray dog that wags its tail and

Yelps—in pure, friendly delight—at the forlorn man that daily

Fed the emaciated, spurned dog—bread with loving hands!

@Sunil Sharma