Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah

Wearing the blue jeans you bought me
I sit down to write to you
After a long time

Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this sheet of paper
Blank and white
On this sheet I write to you of my troubles
After a long time

We’re fine
How’re you?
I write for the sake of writing
Ask for the sake of asking

I want to write just that –

After growing grimier
Over the years, these jeans have got so soiled
That I no longer feel like washing them.
To wash these jeans –
No river flows by
No friends
No farm, no well, no birdsong of koels nearby
No white cranes either

Instead, a white washer, white dryer
White washing powder to wash blue jeans
A white anti-static fabric softener
For the occasional static

Green trees seem white
White, the blue sky
The rainbow is white
White kohl, white soorma
White kumkum, white the white rice
White, white, pure white, white gulal

In this country of the whites, what a black fate is mine
On this bright white day, I sit here pounding life’s misfortunes
Sit here to write to you
After a long time

Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this sheet of paper
Not so white and no longer so blank
On this sheet I write to you of my reflections
After a long time

I keep writing that –

There’s no mango orchard here
To dry washed jeans
Even the sunlight here is sterilised
The wind EPA-controlled
Different water sprinklers nurture different patches of green
Everyone here has different lawns, different water, different sunlight

The jeans here are different for meeting people
Different for behaving, different for socialising
Ways of loving also different
Different TVs, different remotes
Different parties, different votes
Different cars, different phones
Different names, Jaswant John
Different brides for different grooms
Under the same roof, people live in different homes

I sit in my home, different from myself, distant from myself
Far far away
I sit here to bridge the gap on paper
After a long time

Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this letter
Never intended to be so long
On this sheet I write to you of bridges and gaps
After a long time

I turn the page over and write all over again that –

When I turned the almost-dried jeans inside-out
To dry them out completely
My life almost turned upside-down

Upside-down roads, upside-down driving
Upside-down men, upside-down women
Having upside-down conversations, I spend my upside-down nights
I draw water each day from upside-down taps
In the upside-down darkness, upside-down switches for lights

Upside-down alphabets
Upside-down voices
Upside-down silences
Surround me as
I sit here silently to write a wedding song
After a long time

Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this letter
Complete and yet incomplete
On this sheet I write to you this wedding song
After a long time

And finally I just want to write that –

After repeated washing
These jeans are furrowed
By deep wrinkles of dilemma

Wrinkles that tell
Of the desire to settle in the USA anyhow
Of the conditions to settle here
Of the acceptance of these conditions
Of adjusting to this acceptance
Of surrendering to the ‘medical’
Of growing dependence on social security

I sit here in the USA totally attached to Vadodara
I sit here to write of this attachment
After a long time

Light blue is the denim and sapphire blue the ink
Between the two – this letter
Completed and blank
On this sheet I write to you of my troubles
After a long time

Note: The English translation is by Naushil Mehta and Arundhathi Subramaniam. Following is the original.

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah in the original Gujarati Part 1 of 5

Letter to Ba in Gujarati

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah Part 2 of 5

Letter to Ba in Gujarati

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah in Gujarati Part 3 of 5

Letter to Ba in Gujarati

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah in Gujarati Part 4 of 5

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah in Gujarati Part 5 of 5

Letter to Ba by Chandrakant Shah

That which is past, is gone (जो बीत गई सो बात गई) by Harivansh Rai Bachchan

There was a star in life
agreed, it was much loved
when it sank, it did sink.
Look at the sky’s vastness,
so many stars have broken away
so many loved ones it has lost
the lost ones, were they ever found?
But tell me, for the broken stars
does the sky ever grieve?
That which is past, is gone.

There was a flower in life
which, I doted everyday on
when it dried, it dried away.
Look at the garden’s breast,
dried, many of its saplings have
welted, many of its flowers have
that which welted, did it ever bloom?
But tell me, for dried flowers
does the garden create an uproar?
That which is past, is gone.

There was a cup of wine in life
which, you gave your heart and soul for
when it broke, it did break.
Look at the winehouse’s courtyard
shaken, where many cups are
fall, and merge with the ground
that which fall, do they ever rise?
But tell me, for broken cups
does the winehouse ever regret?
That which is past, is gone.

Soft mud, we are made of,
wine drops do tend to fall.
A short life, we have come with,
winecups do tend to break.
Yet, inside the winehouse
there is a winepot, there are winecups.
Those, struck by intoxication
do splurge away on the wine.
He’s a raw drinker,
whose affection escapes no cup,
one who has burnt from true wine
does he ever shout, or scream?
That which is past, is gone.

Note: Please comment below if you know who translated this into English. Following is the original.

हरिवंश राय बच्चन द्वारा जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में एक सितारा था
माना वह बेहद प्यारा था
वह डूब गया तो डूब गया
अम्बर के आनन को देखो
कितने इसके तारे टूटे
कितने इसके प्यारे छूटे
जो छूट गए फिर कहाँ मिले
पर बोलो टूटे तारों पर
कब अम्बर शोक मनाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में वह था एक कुसुम
थे उसपर नित्य निछावर तुम
वह सूख गया तो सूख गया
मधुवन की छाती को देखो
सूखी कितनी इसकी कलियाँ
मुर्झाई कितनी वल्लरियाँ
जो मुर्झाई फिर कहाँ खिली
पर बोलो सूखे फूलों पर
कब मधुवन शोर मचाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में मधु का प्याला था
तुमने तन मन दे डाला था
वह टूट गया तो टूट गया
मदिरालय का आँगन देखो
कितने प्याले हिल जाते हैं
गिर मिट्टी में मिल जाते हैं
जो गिरते हैं कब उठतें हैं
पर बोलो टूटे प्यालों पर
कब मदिरालय पछताता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

मृदु मिटटी के हैं बने हुए
मधु घट फूटा ही करते हैं
लघु जीवन लेकर आए हैं
प्याले टूटा ही करते हैं
फिर भी मदिरालय के अन्दर
मधु के घट हैं मधु प्याले हैं
जो मादकता के मारे हैं
वे मधु लूटा ही करते हैं
वह कच्चा पीने वाला है
जिसकी ममता घट प्यालों पर
जो सच्चे मधु से जला हुआ
कब रोता है चिल्लाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई।।

Across by Vikram Seth

Across these miles I wish you well.
May nothing haunt your heart but sleep.
May you not sense what I don’t tell.
May you not dream, or doubt, or weep.
May what my pen this peaceless day
Writes on this page not reach your view
Till its deferred print lets you say
It speaks to someone else than you.

My apologies, Sona by Gulzar

My apologies, Sona.
Journeying through the terrain of my verse
in these rains,
inconvenienced you
Unseasonal are the monsoons here.
The alleyways of my poetry are frequently damp.
Water gathers often in the ditches.
If you trip and fall here, you run the risk
of spraining a foot.

My apologies, however . . .
You were inconvenienced
because the light in my verse is somewhat dim.
The stones at my threshold
are imperceptible, as you pass.
I have often cracked a toenail against them
As for the streetlamp at the crossroads,
it has remained unlit for aeons
You were inconvenienced.
My apologies, my heartfelt apologies.

Note: Salim Arif is the translator of this poem into English. Following is the original in Urdu.

My apologies, Sona in Urdu

Naham Janami by Unknown

There are no celestial beings I know of, there is no God.
Neither heaven nor hell.
Neither a preserver, nor an owner of this universe.
Neither a creator nor a destroyer.
No eternal judge.
There is only the law of causality.
I take responsibilities for my actions and their consequences.
The smallest of creatures have a life-force just like mine.
May I always have such compassion.
May I never cause any harm to anybody.
The truth is multi-faceted, and there are many ways to reach it.
May I find balance in this duality.
I pray, may my karma of ignorance be shed.
May my true self be liberated from the cycle of life and death.
And attain moksha.

Note: This is originally a verse of now extinct Charvaka traditions and the poet is unknown. But it survives in the Gujarati (language) oral traditions. Translated from Gujarati into Prakrit by either Anand Gandhi or Chandrasen. Then translated into English, possibly by Gandhi himself.  Following is the Prakrit version.

नाहं जाणामि कंपि देवं न दईवं, णत्थि इसरो णियन्ता।
णत्थि सग्गभूमि ण णिरयं।
णो जगकत्ता णो विकत्ताय ण य जगईसरो कोवि।
ण रक्खओ ण भक्खओ।
ण य कालाईओ आदित्ठो दन्दनाईओ।
कम्मुणो चेव दण्डं।
हं सयमेव सट्ठा भोत्ता य मे सुहदुह – पियाप्पिअसंजोगाण।
अप्पसरियो जीवो सव्वाण सुहुमतिसुहुमेसु।
नत्थु कोवि कयापि दुहिओ मया।
सया मे इइ संवेअणा।
सच्चस्स मग्गा बहवे, सच्चो य एगरुबो णवरं।
समया मे मणो दुव्विहअवस्थासु।
मम पत्थणा -निज्जरउ अन्नाणकंमं।
शुद्धसासयरुवो हं इइ अत्थु मे सद्दंसणंअन्ते- ण य भवउ चवियं
मे पयं मोक्खमग्गओ ।

In the Stillness of a Word by Amrita Bharati

are so alike –
his earth
my sky
I wanted
to follow him
wherever he went

But our paths
were so different –
he was on one
I on the other
with a line between us –
and mine

were one
in our soul
he walked
on the low peaks of the earth
And I
in the high chasms
of the sky

these two paths
will turn
one day
in my poetry
so we may walk together
in the stillness of a word

Note: Translated into English by Lucy Rosenstein and The Poetry Translation Workshop. Following is the original poem in Hindi. 



Sita by Jason Schneiderman

Do you remember Sita? How when Hanuman came to rescue her

she refused, how she insisted that Rama come openly,

defeat her captor Ravana openly? She had no desire for stealth,

no desire for intrigue, and though Ravana could not touch her

for the curse on his flesh, she remained captive until Rama came.

Do you remember that she was tortured? That Hunaman asked her

for permission to kill the women who had tortured her? Do you

remember how she walked through fire to prove her purity,

even though everyone knew of the curse on Ravana? How the people

said the fire didn’t matter because Fire was the brother of her mother,

Earth? How Rama was as weak in the face of his people as he

had been strong in the face of Ravana? Can you imagine the eyes

of Sita when she refused another test? When she looked at Rama,

a man she loved enough to die for, a man who was a god, and knew

it was over? Can you imagine her eyes in that moment, as she asked

her mother to take her back, to swallow her back into the earth? I think

my eyes are like that now, leaving you.

Here by Gagan Gill

in her bones
she hides herself
fleeing from her flesh

she collapses
with grief
escaping from herself

claws out
body and soul

Clutching at straws
she searches through
poetry —

this is the very stone
they will touch:

she the fish
and she the non-fish

Both will sink
in this very place

Note: Translation into English by Lucy Rosenstein and the Poetry Translation Workshop at http://www.poetrytranslation.org/ Following is the original in Hindi.

here by Gagan Gill in the original Hindi language

After Midnight (तीसरा पहर) by Mohan Rana

I saw the stars far off –
as far as I from them:
in this moment I saw them –
in moments of the twinkling past.
In the boundless depths of darkness,
these hours
hunt the morning through the night.

And I can’t make up my mind:
am I living this life for the first time?
Or repeating it, forgetting as I live
the first moment of breath every time?

Does the fish too drink water?
Does the sun feel the heat?
Does the light see the dark?
Does the rain too get wet?
Do dreams ask questions about sleep as I do?

I walked a long, long way
and when I saw, I saw the stars close by.
Today it rained all day long and the words were washed away
from your face.

Note: Translated from the Hindi by Bernard O’Donoghue. Following is the original.

मैंने तारों को देखा बहुत दूर
जितना मैं उनसे
वे दिखे इस पल में
टिमटिमाते अतीत के पल
अँधेरे की असीमता में,
सुबह का पीछा करती रात में
यह तीसरा पहर

और मैं तय नहीं कर पाता
क्या मैं जी रहा हूँ जीवन पहली बार,
या इसे भूलकर जीते हुए दोहराए जा रहा हूँ
सांस के पहले ही पल को हमेशा !

क्या मछली भी पानी पीती होगी
या सूरज को भी लगती होगी गरमी
क्या रोशनी को भी कभी दिखता होगा अँधकार
क्या बारिश भी हमेशा भीग जाती होगी,
मेरी तरह क्या सपने भी करते होंगे सवाल नींद के बारे में

दूर दूर बहुत दूर चला आया मैं
जब मैंने देखा तारों को – देखा बहुत पास,
आज बारिश होती रही दिनभर
और शब्द धुलते रहे तुम्हारे चेहरे से

Sea Breeze, Bombay by Adil Jussawalla

Partition’s people stitched
Shrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind.
An opened people, fraying across the cut
country reknotted themselves on this island.

Surrogate city of banks,
Brokering and bays, refugees’ harbour and port,
Gatherer of ends whose brick beginnings work
Loose like a skin, spotting the coast,

Restore us to fire. New refugees,
Wearing blood-red wool in the worst heat,
come from Tibet, scanning the sea from the north,
Dazed, holes in their cracked feet.

Restore us to fire. Still,
Communities tear and re-form; and still, a breeze,
Cooling our garrulous evenings, investigates nothing,
Ruffles no tempers, uncovers no root,

And settles no one adrift of the mainland’s histories.

If only he was not Binayak Sen (काश के वो बिनायक सेन ना होता) by Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed

If only he were a murderer of Sikhs, or involved in the massacre in Gujarat
If only he were one of the malpractitioners at a private hospital
If only he were an agent for a multinational company
If only he were a merchant of national property

If only he were a member of violence inciting Salwa Judum
If only he could conduct a Rath Yatra in the name of language, religion, mosque, or a temple
If only he were a corrupt police officer
If only he were an agriculture minister letting the grain produced by hardworking farmers rot

If only he were a religious guru distributing Trishools to people
If only he were a hate spewing Mullah on TV channels
If only he were a minister uprooting forests to make way for mines
If only he were a nationalist who feels proud about tortures committed by the armed forces and the police

If only he would make a public statement on sacrificing humanity for one’s pride
If only he didn’t have any compassion or empathy in his heart
If only he didn’t leave his cozy life and went to villages to serve the marginalized
If only he was a sleeping citizen like you or I

If only he was happily immersed in his family and businesses
If only he would mock Gandhi’s ideals
If only he wouldn’t follow the Hippocratic oath
If only he would surrender to corruption, injustice and bullies

If only he were a security guard letting terror enter India for a bribe
If only he would deliver news to distract people from the issues of the poor and the farmers
If only he would sing and dance with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr. Obama
If only his heart wouldn’t beat for human rights

Then today
Binayak wouldn’t be called a villain in this country
There wouldn’t be any prosecution, nor a charge for treason
He would be free and far from the chains of life imprisonments, and well respected
If only though, if only.

काश के वो सिखों का हत्यारा होता, या गुजरात के नरसंघार में शामिल होता
काश के वो प्राइवेट अस्पताल के लुटेरे डाक्टरों में से एक होता
काश के वो किसी मल्टीनेशनल कंपनी का दलाल होता
काश के वो राष्ट्रीय धरोहर को बेचने वाला बनिया होता

काश के वो हिंसा प्रेरित करने वाले सलवा-जुडूम का सदस्य होता
काश के वो भाषा, धर्म, मस्जिद, मंदिर के नाम पर रथ यात्रा निकाल पाता
काश के वो घूसखोर पुलिस का अफसर होता
काश के वो किसान की मेहनत से उपजे अनाज को सड़ाने वाला कृषि मंत्री होता

काश के वो त्रिशूल बाँटने वाला धार्मिक गुरु होता
काश के वो टीवी चेन्नलों पर नफरत फैलाने वाला कठमुल्ला होता
काश के वो जंगलों को उजाड़ कर खदान बनाने वाला मंत्री होता
काश के वो पुलिस और सेना के अत्याचार पर गर्व करने वाला राष्ट्रवादी होता

काश के वो अहम् की खातिर इंसानियत की बलि चढ़ाने वाले वक्तव्य देता
काश के उसके हृदय में करुना और दया नाम की कोई चीज़ न होती
काश के वो अपने सारे सुख और चैन तो त्याग कर गाँव की सेवा में ना जाता
काश के वो भी हम आप जैसे सोये हुए नागरिकों में से एक होता

काश के वो भी अपने परिवार और व्यापार में व्यस्त और मस्त होता
काश के वो महात्मा गाँधी के आदर्शों का मज़ाक़ उड़ा पता
काश के वो डाक्टरों द्वारा ली गयी शपथ का पालन नहीं करता
काश के वो भ्रष्ट अन्यायपालिका और दबंगों के आगे घुटने टेक देता

काश के वो घूस लेकर आतंक को भारत में प्रवेश देने वाला सुरक्षा कर्मी होता
काश के वो देश को गरीबों और किसानो की समस्या से बहकाने वाली न्यूज़ सुनाता
काश के वो नोबेल शांति पुरूस्कार के विजेता ओबामा साहब के साथ नाचता गाता
काश के उसका दिल मानवाधिकार के लिए नहीं धड़कता

तो आज
बिनायक देश का खलनायक नहीं कहलाता
न कोई कार्यवाही होती, न ही देशद्रोही का इलज़ाम गढ़ा जाता
उम्र क़ैद की जंजीरों से दूर वो भी सम्मानीय और स्वतंत्र होता
काश, काश, काश !!!

Note: Translated into English from the original Hindi by the poet himself.

Come, let us build a night by Gulzar

Come, let us build a night

On the marble edifice of silence
let us swathe ourselves in the sheets of darkness,
and ignite the twin candles of our bodies . . .
When dew arrives on tiptoe,
let it not discern even the whisper of our breaths

In the silken fragrance of mist,
entwined let us lie, like fragrance itself —
Draped in the earthy aroma of our bodies,
Let us, like spirits, rustle forever . . .

Note: English translation by Salim Arif.

 Come, let us build a night by Gulzar in Urdu (Arabic script)

Breathing (Saans lena :: सांस लेना) by Gulzar

What kind of a habit is breathing
What kind of a tradition is it to keep on living
Not even a slight movement in the body anywhere
No shadow in the eyes
The feet are stunned, they keep on moving
There is a journey, that keeps on flowing
For how many years, how many centuries
Keep on living, keep on living

Habits are such strange things…

Note: I translated this poem into English above. If you have the original in the Arabic script instead of the Devanagiri script in Urdu, please let me know.

सांस लेना भी कैसी आदत है
जीये जाना भी क्या रवायत है
कोई आहट नहीं बदन में कहीं
कोई साया नहीं है आँखों में
पांव बेहिस हैं, चलते जाते हैं
इक सफ़र में जो बहता रहता है
कितने बरसों से कितनी सदियों से
जीये जाते हैं जीये जाते हैं

आदतें भी अजीब होती हैं…

Becoming a Brahmin by Meena Kandaswamy

Algorithm for converting a Shudra into a Brahmin


Step 1: Take a beautiful Shudra girl.
Step 2: Make her marry a Brahmin.
Step 3: Let her give birth to his female child.
Step 4: Let this child marry a Brahmin.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3-4 six times.
Step 6: Display the end product. It is a Brahmin.


Algorithm advocated by Father of the Nation at Tirupur.
Documented by Periyar on 20-09-1947.

Algorithm for converting a pariah into a Brahmin.

Awaiting another Father of the Nation
to produce this algorithm.

Inconvenience caused due to inadvertent delay
is sincerely regretted.

Letter from Ramabai to her Husband by Nitoo Das

I’m tired
and this drying body
remembers the crane-
white of your nails tonight.

The widows come in
limp droves everyday
and my ears scorch
with their words.

Today, Shanta told me
“They gave me powders
to choke my daughter.”
Her hands kept
fluttering to her head
as if to touch
dream hair.

at night
I see my brother’s
ghost and we
still roam and
moan with bloated
bellies and tongues painted purple with
sour berries
and my hungry child-belly
carries Manorama
kicking and clawing inside me.

it rains outside and termites have grown
wings to search for frail lovers.
Soon they will
lose them and

I will see whispered wings
squashed to
the ground.

An announcement for Mr & Mrs Limaye by Manya Joshi


Mrs Limaye aap jahaan
Kahin bhi ho foran
Mulund station par chale aaiye
Wahan aapke pati
Aapka intezaar kar rahe hain


Maalik  who is sabka ek
Bang everyone
O Shirdi king Sai Baba bang bang


People lose their way
People lose each other
People make civil statements
On a superbuiltup world


In a public local train
There is an unimagined itchiness
On your private emotions
You mentally advertise it to yourself


Mr & Mrs Limaye
Hiding behind popular philosophies
Wait for
Each other
Facing each other

Note: English Translation by Sachin Ketkar.

Translator’s Note: ‘aap jahaan . . . apka intezaar kar rahe hain’ (Hindi): This is a common public announcement in railway stations: Wherever you are, please come immediately; your husband is waiting for your at Mulund station.
Malik … sabka ek
: The Lord is One (a common utterance of Shirdi Sai Baba, the famous early 20th century saint)

The original poem in Marathi.

Part 2 in Marathi

In Her Neighbourhood by Giriraj Kiradoo


descending into her body is going from my narrow lane to her wide open square

her body smells of the neighbourhood around the butchery
of goats and trussed-up roosters
her body has the blue yellow black colors of kites
the beat of daflis
the creaking of chairs come for repair
the gurgling of the hookah

the language I love her in
does not stay mine when written
the language she loves me in
does not stay hers when spoken
now and then
we stumble in the dialects of this city

circling around language
we see each other
touching each other’s clothes


I cannot hear or understand the prayers buried in her body
I search my body
and find no prayer there

“your body has the murmur of the last namaaz”
“that kaafirs cannot hear”

she wears my wishes like clothes to cover herself
I descend into the prayers buried in her kaafir’s body


her body grows into the whole neighbourhood
in which
I wander like a lost child among strange salons and paan-shops
in which
her mother is sorry for not yet having repaired my dafli
in which
I drink tea at her father’s shop

he wants to wash the glass I used
I wash the glass under a tap
he keeps the money in a gullak

he looks at me startled at the respect I grant him
I run from the neighbourhood or from embarrassment and fall into my room

she straightens her kurta


her father walks in the lane by my house almost lost
he has not been able to see properly for years
he has even lost his slippers
wandered far from the namazis

(tears from her eyes fall like words
on my clothes my hands)

at that very moment he passes under my rooftop room


her father checks the stitches on the dafli one last time
her mother embroiders last winter’s remembered flowers on someone else’s sheets

on their rooftop hidden among a group of kite-flying loafers
I sit drinking a beer

the night before Sahira is bathing in the open

Note: Translation into English by Rahul Soni.

Giriraj Kiradoo's poems in Hindi

“Chalo ik baar phir se” by Sahir Ludhianvi

Come, let us be strangers again, you and I.

I shall no longer hope for any favours from you
Nor shall you look upon me with eyes askance.
And my words shall tremble no more with my heartbeat
Nor the secret of your struggle be betrayed in a glance.

Come, let us be strangers again, you and I.

You too have hesitated to give yourself completely
I too wear disguises, or so I am told
The disgraces of my past are my constant companions
And you too are possessed by the nights of old.

When involvement becomes illness it is best forgotten
When a relationship oppresses it is best to break it
When the adventure you are embarked on cannot be completed
One must find a beautiful way out, and take it.

Come, let us be strangers again, you and I.

Note: translation by Falstaff

चलो इक बार फिर से, अजनबी बन जाएं हम दोनो
चलो इक बार फिर से …

न मैं तुमसे कोई उम्मीद रखूँ दिलनवाज़ी की
न तुम मेरी तरफ़ देखो गलत अंदाज़ नज़रों से
न मेरे दिल की धड़कन लड़खड़ाये मेरी बातों से
न ज़ाहिर हो तुम्हारी कश्म-कश का राज़ नज़रों से
चलो इक बार फिर से …

तुम्हें भी कोई उलझन रोकती है पेशकदमी से
मुझे भी लोग कहते हैं कि ये जलवे पराए हैं
मेरे हमराह भी रुसवाइयां हैं मेरे माज़ी की – २
तुम्हारे साथ भी गुज़री हुई रातों के साये हैं
चलो इक बार फिर से …

तार्रुफ़ रोग हो जाये तो उसको भूलना बेहतर
ताल्लुक बोझ बन जाये तो उसको तोड़ना अच्छा
वो अफ़साना जिसे अंजाम तक लाना ना हो मुमकिन – २
उसे एक खूबसूरत मोड़ देकर छोड़ना अच्छा
चलो इक बार फिर से …

My Mother’s Sari by Vaidehi

Original Poem in Kannada

There, in the wooden box
my mother’s sari, enveloped in white muslin,
with mothballs.

Her sense of order is in each one
of its folds,
and the press of her palm.
A universe of ironing lies beneath the pillow.
Tiny packets of camphor, incense and
fragrant roots –
her perfume.

My mother’s sari’s tucked-in eagerness
coupled with the jingling of bangles
is the zest to get down to work.

Lines running across the broad pallu,
the unbroken bridges of an upright life,
keeping all evil at bay –
a cane to reprove naughty children.

Folds tucked into a knot,
a mysterious treasure-house of meanings,
the pretty yellow Madhura sari
with its green border of blooms . . .
. . . that queen was perhaps like my mother.

Endless is my mother’s sari –
the more I wrap it around me, the more
it grows.
I remember becoming a midget once
trying to measure it,
trying to drape it.

My mother’s sari –
the latex of mango and cashew,
a heaven of Ranja, Kepala and Suragi
golden wheat beads auguring
the New Year Kani,
the old rolling over each year
to yield a new import.

My mother’s sari,
with stars all over its body,
shields those in distress
from rain or shine,
it glows uniquely in the darkness.

My mother’s sari
of voile or handloom,
with a small dream of silk
When the dream came true,
Father was no more.
She wears it now
but the dream is gone.

There! My mother’s old, Udupi weaver’s sari
looks at me from where it hangs.
I unfold it and envelope myself in it
uttering with a long sigh
the word ‘Amma’ –
a word that remains forever fresh,
however worn with use.

Note: Original from Parijatha;
publisher: Christ College Kannada Sangha,
Bengaluru, 1999

Note: Translation: Dr. Ramachandra Sharma and
Ahalya Ballal, 2009

Holika Dahan by Unknown

Year after year
purity of fire
is challenged by evil,
appeased with offerings

A full moon looks on
as winds stoke embers,
flare flames
to a flickering dance

Right in the center
of crimson blaze
sits Holika,
Prahlad in her lap –
her arms a circle of heat

White sparks fly from her hair,
eyes smolder in fury;
her mouth sucks in air,
engulfs rice and wheat

Wood chars,
coconuts splinter,
flowers singe
smearing earth with ash.

Year after year
faith survives.
Holika burns to death.