A poem is a many-splendoured thing

Ahead of Poetry Day — celebrated across the world on March 21 — a look at an assortment of poetry that focuses on the diverse shades of our lives

 

When Shammi Kapoor Slides Down the Snow

in Junglee, shouting ‘Yahoo’, they tell you it’s Kashmir

but it is actually Kufri, near Shimla.

When Ranbir Kapoor climbs up the snow

in YJHD, all moonstruck, they tell you it’s Manali

but it is actually Gulmarg, in Kashmir.

So we’ve always got it wrong—granduncle or

grandnephew—and we’ve been like this for long

always Kashmir without Kashmiris, all for a song.

 

From Akhil Katyal’s How Many Countries Does The Indus Cross

 

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Grief

is the least biodegradable of objects.

Do not bury it.

Stash it between your fingers

and in those inconsolable hours

let it run.

There will be nights

when even steel

dissolves with your touch.

 

From Akhil Katyal’s How Many Countries Does The Indus Cross

 

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Saasurvasin

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up at midnight, neatly set out the grain

begin working the grinding stone

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up, it’s dawn, the rooster crows

it’s time to take the pitcher on your head

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up and light, light the stove

the sun rapidly rises

Get up, saasurvasin bai

get up, massive work in the farm lies ahead

You are but cattle in the shed

Get up, saasurvasin bai

Mother-in-law grumbles and is annoyed

wipe that tear from your eye

Get up, saasurvasin bai

be patient, don’t talk back, hold your tongue

let the memories of your maher comfort you!

 

From Anjali Purohit’s Go Talk To The River: The Ovis of Bahinabai Chaudhuri

 

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Second sight

In Pascal’s endless queue,

people pray, whistle, or make

remarks. As we enter the dark,

someone says from behind,

‘You are Hindoo, aren’t you?

You must have second sight.’

I fumble in my nine

pockets like the night-blind

son-in-law groping

in every room for his wife,

and strike a light to regain

at once my first, and only

sight.

 

From AK Ramanujan’s Journeys: A Poet’s Diary

 

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When Landscape Becomes Woman

I was eight when I looked

through a keyhole

and saw my mother in the drawing room

in her hibiscus silk sari,

her fingers slender

around a glass of iced cola

and I grew suddenly shy

for never having seen her before.

I knew her well, of course —

serene undulation of blue mulmul,

wrist serrated by thin gold bangle,

gentle convexity of mole

on upper right arm,

and her high arched feet —

better than I knew myself.

And I knew her voice

like running water—

ice cubes in cola.

But through the keyhole

at the grownup party

she was no longer

geography.

She seemed to know

how to incline her neck,

just when to sip

her swirly drink

and she understood the language

of baritone voices and lacquered nails

and words like Emergency.

I could have watched her all night.

And that’s how I discovered

that keyholes always reveal more

than doorways.

That a chink in a wall

is all you need

to tumble

into a parallel universe.

That mothers are women.

 

From Arundhati Subramaniam’s Love Without A Story: Poems

Published on March 15, 2019
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