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 .

Those tender notes

He was neither a bird of some rare plumage,
nor a caged bird singing.

On the pavement near the Dal Lake sat
the stooped, old man selling lotus stems, turnips
and fresh leafy vegetables.
Rheumy eyes, and gnarled hands,
his dry lips puckered into a happy smile
as passersby stopped and bought some vegetables from him.
Gone was the grim countenance, as he broke into song.

A song that my granny used to sing.
A song that captivated the throng.
A song of longing. Of belonging.
A song asking why things went wrong.
Did the vegetable vendor know
that he was killing me softly with his song?

His tender notes crept slowly over me,
killing me softly, but gifting me a rebirth.
He was a ‘stranger to my eyes‘, you see,
but not the notes of his achingly familiar song.
The houseboats looked on,
the Zabarwan Range looked on,
the shikaras looked on.
And I looked on and on.

It was a song that my granny sang years ago.
A song of longing. Of belonging.
A song of camaraderie. Of bonhomie.
A song of long ago.

Let me write a poem [It is World Poetry Day which also happens to be International Downs’ Syndrome Day];

Let me write that poem which will give the healing touch
to those living on the fringe of society, the dispossessed and the deprived

.
May my poetry pour solace, love and compassion
on special little angels and their extra special caretakers,
and may these special folks teach me the poetry of love,
 through their guileless kindness.
 May they infuse my poetry with that rare healing touch.
No, my poetry is not asking too much.
My poetry yearns to be healed with the robust strength of your spirit,
and despite all odds make me sing songs of hope and resilience.
 
Let me write a poem that will erase the grinding poverty, so rampant.  

With one stroke of the pen let me remove all traces of racism,
patriarchy and dishonesty and establish humanism.

Resurrect the dreams in dead eyes, turn lingering sighs   

into never-ending smiles, mend broken tunes,

turn this dystopian world into a utopia where love reigns. 

 Let me write a poem that will darn the holes in the poor kid’s socks,
from which cracked and chapped toes peep out self- consciously.  

Let my words shield him from life’s cruel knocks.

Yes, let me write a poem that will remove the tears
 from the face of a war ravaged child, and the sneer
from the face of a demagogue self-styled.
Let me write a poem that will make the mocking birds
sing with full throated ease.
Yes, give me those poetic devices please.  

They say a War is on

They say a war is on.

 What do war-ravaged women do
on International Women’s Day?

There are silhouettes creeping out of nooks,
tiny girls clinging on to their precious dolls,
and the mothers clinging to theirs.
Scared out of their wits, they cast petrified looks
at their tiny pigtailed, tear-streaked dolls.

 
An inexplicable dread fills the surroundings.
Ignoring their bruises and gashes,
they dash- crashing against each other-
towards improvised shelters,
faces reflecting a deathly pallor.
Is it some raucous maniacal rage,
or just the spillover effects of a demonic age?

What do war-ravaged women do
on International Women’s Day?

One wipes another’s tears,
while quelling her own fears, dodging the flying glass
and burning shrapnel, shielding her innocent offspring
from a traumatic senselessness,
frantically fleeing death and destruction,
desperately praying for protection
against this weird celebration
of violence.  

That is what war-ravaged women do
on International Women’s Day.

High Time

The rays of the sun on the last day of the year
filter through my curtained window
to form patches on the floor. Golden ones.
 The pillow catches a few rays and hugs them tight.
The room is bright, but why do I feel like a frightened bird?
The heart is petrified and a paranoid me
  sees nothing but a void, shouting its lungs out.
Oh, these fears, these apprehensions, and doubts!
 Grotesque shreds and chunks do a bizarre dance,
scaring me. A bird happily hops on the window sill,
unaware of the tumult in my heart.  

 
Darkness falls.
Now, it is the moon eavesdropping,
chopping the night bit by bit.
I hear the descending steps of the departing year.
The night picks up the hems of its star-spangled dark gown
and traipses away.


 My ears prick to the sounds of the New Year.
Hush, do you hear the sounds too?
Soft -soothing -sublime. A sense of Deja Vu.
Lights on! Fight on!  Everything seems to be lit.
Soak the light bit by bit.
 High time!  High time!
It is high time for a joyous rhyme!  

When Life comes visiting

Isolated in our luxurious shells, snug as hermit crabs,
not bothered about the topsy-turvy world around,
we go on slurping steaming hot coffee
with a poached egg on a slice of toast.
 
While the ragpicker hunts for scraps of treasure
in the overflowing, stinky dumpster,
we, the high born inhale the morning air
exhilarated by the crisp, morning breeze teasing the trees,
unfazed by the throttled screams of tethered freedom.
  
Now and then, easing oneself warily out of the shell,
blinking away the brilliance of the surroundings,
quickly scurrying back as scorpion- life stares nay glares,
its pincers wide open, tail curled over its back.
A huge question mark.
Is it about to strike?  Twisting and squirming, we wonder.
Will just a single drop of venom kill us?

In the distance stand the mountains,
faintly glazed with blue and purple.
Tantalizing. Unflappable.
  
From the safety of our shells,
we see life walking towards us –
loose-limbed, wobbly, ataxic,     
an audacious sneer pasted on its smug face.   
But, we the invincible, are safe in our shells, aren’t we?  
So, why bother?

The illusory Poppyseed Bagel



Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
What’s that?
I look up at the skies.
There is a horde of seagulls
sounding almost like mountain sheep bleating….
 It’s so incredibly beautiful!
An illusion, huh?

Scrambled eggs and a poppy seed bagel,
 is this plate before me just an illusion?  
Will it become an illusion if I gobble it up
or was it an illusion even before that?
 
That woman with tortoiseshell glasses looking at me,
with a fixated stare, is she just a figment of my imagination?
An illusion?
Is her fixed stare an illusion or are the tortoiseshell glasses illusory?
Is the megalomania of the power-hungry a precarious illusion
or the powerlessness of the masses?
 
 
And that tiny dove cooing on the terrace-
diffidence in every coo, that an illusion too?
Oh let’s forget theorizing about illusion.
 
 Let’s keep humming that old …old… song,
for old time’s sake.
Ingrid Bergman gone, Humphry Bogart gone.
Dooley Wilson gone…..
But love – remains when everything else is gone.  
No, not an illusion this one.

As time goes by
You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss
When two lovers woo, they still say, I love you ….
Love you
on that you can rely *  

Come, let’s make love real and save this illusory world.

*The famous song from Casablanca, As Time goes by

Round and round


 
Round and round goes his life.
So does his mind – round and round.
One more round around that birch tree,
singing songs, laughing away, with the sun in the eyes. 

One more around the boulder – sun-streaked.
He catches the glimpse of two silhouettes,
their arms around each other. 
Two hearts beating in sync with each other.
One scene after another.

Pattering feet, childish chortles, and milk bottles.
School uniforms, starched, ironed.
Playing hide and seek, report cards,
frolicking in apple orchards,
 jobs in alien lands,
dancing maladroitly to the tune
 of a thousand and one materialistic bands.  

Then an empty nest.
The two silhouettes are reduced to one.
One – lonely, stooped under the weight of memories
 cooped inside four walls.

He waits – to close his eyes for that eternal rest.
Will the nest once again pulsate
with the pitter-patter of tiny feet?
Will, he once again be lovingly greeted with tiny arms
 flung around sturdy shoulders?
  
The other oldies in the Old Age home,
euphemistically called the Happy Retreat
exchange reminiscences,
playing perfunctory games,
smiling through parched lips.  
He almost slips, grips the railing
watching them tight-lipped, but sees no oldies,
only a young twosome,
sitting on a boulder – sun-streaked.
And smiles a smile- tear-streaked.

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.