Gods don’t play dice

When Little Som was two and half,
He had his first illusion dashed:
The laddoos did not come from Gods;
A dabba had them neatly stashed.
He went inside the pooja room
And swiped the laddoo sitting there,
Declaring to his grand-amma,
“We will not give the Gods a share.”
As Grand-amma was part way through
Her rosary of hundred eight,
She did not stir a muscle’s breadth
And reasoned it was fine to wait.
But Little Som had much to lose:
He started losing patience first,
And then in minutes, temper too,
And, finally, the worst of worst:
He lost the fear of Gods’ revenge.
Though, any self-respecting kid
Who’s heard the tales of Hindu Gods
Will know the things that Devas did
When something that They thought was Theirs
Was taken by a daring man
With big-big eyes and hairy head
And darkened skin of Deccan tan.

They started with his grand-amma,
Who went to sleep but did not wake.
No sign of fever or of pain,
A boon for her devotion’s sake.
But then the cruelty of Gods
Erupted in a squeal of brakes
When rushing to the hospital,
A scooter slipped on cow dung cakes
And crashed into our Little Som,
Who lived to see another day,
But not to walk on his own feet
Which he was told will soon decay.
But when are Gods so simply pleased?
They sent a fever and a pox,
The first of which put Amma down,
As per her faith, in wooden box.
The second left a lot of scars
On Little Som’s demonic face,
So much a sight of ugliness,
His Appa sent him in disgrace
To live among the temple kids
Who sang and begged their daily bread,
While Appa found another wife
And had a fairer baby made.

Numbers out of thick air

“O thank the lord, go thank the lord.
The numbers started falling down.
The wave is passing out of here,
The deaths are moving out of town.”

We stood behind the mango trees
That line the border of the grounds
Where Hindus come to burn their dead
With holy chants and drumming sounds.

I asked him what the number was.
He asked me how I didn’t know.
I shrugged and said I skip the news.
He shook his head, “It’s twelve or so.”

I laughed a laugh that sounded rude;
Indeed I saw some angry eyes.
“How large is this ‘or so’ of yours?
Is fifty-five its unit size?”

He started pointing at my face.
I pointed at the rising smoke.
“For every morning, last two weeks,
The sky was burning when I woke.

“The sky was burning when I lunched,
The sky was burning when I slept,
The sky was burning even when
The clouds, in passing, flashed and wept.”

He saw the smoke and saw my eyes.
“It could be something else too, right?
It cannot be the only cause.
Perhaps some lost their cancer fight?”

I knew he knew, but asked him still,
“How often does the sky look so
For days on end with no reprieve?”
He let a sighing “Never” go.

I knew he knew, but asked him still,
“How many holy grounds are there?
On just this side of Berhampur?”
He mouthed aloud a silent prayer.

Attack on Homeliness

In brief times of domestic peace,
The sharpest raid on homeliness
Filters in from foes forgotten,
Who steal, despite a poisoned defeat,
The immediacy of homely air,
Unhomely made by stench of death
Of sewer rats in lofty corners,
Which can’t be reached direct without
Raising ghosts of webs and dust
From stacked remains of homely things,
Once used and useful, but no more.

A God is Pleased

I went to buy a coconut
To crack it as divine tribute.
But on the way, I saw a truck
Mistake a dog for hairy fruit.

I went to see the God of Death
Who nonetheless was satisfied.
He asked me if I’d rather have
Instead a mum and child had died.

I saw my coconut in hand
I saw again the highway gore
And fought the sudden urge to crack
My temples on the temple floor.

I have an itch

I have an itch to write and write
Though what to write is seldom clear.
To write without a thing to say
Is writing like an engineer
Who has been told to busy be,
And so keeps coding spaghetti.

I have an itch to eat and eat
Though what to eat is seldom clear.
To eat without an appetite
Is eating like a volunteer
Who has been told the night’s his shift,
And so keeps snacking not to drift.

I have an itch to sleep and sleep,
Though when to sleep is seldom clear.
To sleep without a worldly care
Is sleeping like a mountaineer
Who has been told his team is dead,
And so he sleeps on snowy bed.

Cremation Lingerings

No one prepares you for the stench
Of burning flesh, and sooty smoke,
And flying ash, mixed with your sweat.

No one prepares you for the taste
Of waking up to a burning tongue,
Pickled with dry coughs of acid reflux.

You just watch the water faucet stream
And forget to splash your face.

Reframing

You run by falling purposely
And breaking it with thrice the weight
Of body passing through your joints,
Your ankles, knees and lower back,
All brittle, fragile, built to break
At once to overwhelming force,
But gaining from the smaller shocks
To be a little better at
Absorbing pain with passing time.

And though you curse your Life for being
So hard on mental knees and back,
Remember you have gained in strength
Precisely from these little shocks.

Misfortunes are the grounds we run.

Another

Another call from a still-unsaved number.
Another leaf fallen from the family tree.
Another bleating night of sheeplessness.
Another dawn-lit mourning coffee.

Aftermath

He walks in his father’s uniform,
Alcohol-washed and charcoal-pressed,
But already a size too small
For his puberty-powered coming-of-height.

We walks in his father’s uniform,
Sweeping yellow and green confetti
From last night’s party on laburnum trees
That the monkeys forgot to clean up after.

He walks in his father’s uniform,
Picking biowaste with polythened hands
With the same energy he has for picking
Fly-ridden leftovers of overnight orphanhood.

He walks in his father’s uniform,
Rolling a wheelbarrow of sludge
Patiently loaded with steady arms,
‘Cause everyone cries over spilled muck.

He walks in his father’s uniform,
A volcano quenched by heavy downpour.

Machine learning Metaphors

I want to write a Python script
That reads my daily poetry,
And then attempts to write it too,
Or, failing that, quite obviously,
Attempts to create metaphors
From lists of nouns and verbs and nouns.
For instance, say, it throws at me,
A “python writing poetry”,
Or “monkey scripting Ramayan”,
Or, “sunlight waxing strawberries”
Or, “vaccines uppercutting crowns”
Or, “beards braying Bengali”
Or, “crickets playing fantasy”
Or something doing something else.
It may be all I need to jog
Imaginations within me
And write a poem. Like I should.