Gajapati

At the portrait of the man, I frown:
Is he getting up or sitting down?
The chair and crown are still his for sure,
And the heirs around seem to endure
His testing presence among their kind.
And he must rest his august behind,
For age has set in, and so has gout.
His rage is sharp, though, without a doubt.
He will holler on for two years more
While his heirs die crawling on the floor,
Each punished for High Conspiracy:
Ambition over intimacy.
The throne will pass to the cowherd king
Whose prowess today our children sing.

Twelve Kilometers

The fifteenth lap around the track
Was when I first became aware
Of dust on my emerging jaw
And itch in my eroding hair.

For with no music in my ears,
No tracker band around my wrist,
I wondered how I ran so long
And how my mind did not resist.

Rooftop Bots

I hum a tune about the moon
While watering some rooftop pots.
But then I spy a distant eye
On me from other rooftop spots.
At once I freeze, full of unease,
Aware of all the rooftop shots
Her iPhone takes, as she makes
Her drone fly over rooftop lots.
I turn around to the buzzing sound
To see the drone in rooftop knots
Of clotheslines, as tangled vines,
Hatching their own rooftop plots
To catch all spies, and foil their tries,
Defending us from rooftop bots.

At Ease

He’s eaten nothing all day
Except his own words
At the end of sentences,
Which he washes down
With an occasional sip
Of the electrolyte water
On his bedside table.

He’s read nothing all day
Except his own palms,
Cupped as a folded leaf,
I don’t know whether to
Receive divine healing grace
Or offer up his own divinity
To the nondual infinite.

His beatific smile is scaring me.

How to catch a petty thief

It was the year 2007, when
A new Inspector of Police
Visited our street and asked around,
Who steals the municipal water taps?
The street responded as it always does:
Must be the ghosts on the tamarind tree.
The Inspector blinked as others had before.
His Constables also smiled for a bit
But quickly looked down again, perhaps,
To investigate the splatter pattern
Of litres and litres of spilled water.

This was the seventh tap to be stolen,
And the seventh time the pipe had peed
Into the street, like morning kids,
Long after the women had left
With heads and armpits and hips full
Of large pots and larger gossip.
The Police of past had failed to nab
The ghosts who took the taps away,
But the new Inspector declared aloud
That he will catch the petty thief.

The next day a new tap was fixed.
And on the tamarind tree was tied
Two closed-circuit TV cameras,
The cross-eyes of Blindfolded Justice:
One looking up the street,
One looking down the street,
With a long optic nerve descending
And entering a grilled window where
The Inspector had taken permission
To leave a powered magnetic brain
That he called a CPU
But the street heard as Seipeyu,
The daughter deity of Mother Goddess
Who watched over the street’s safety.

A few weeks passed with no event
And the Inspector sat up proudly tall
Each time he passed by in his Jeep
Until the day he held in his hand
A severed optic nerve lying down
With no tap on the pipe
And no cameras on the tree
And lots of water on the street.
He took the CPU away.

Next day, the women filled their pots,
And laughed aloud at the Inspector’s
“Extra oversmart idea”
That had so many gaping blindspots.
That was when he came in his Jeep
And sent a lady constable
To cuff one of the laughing maids
And take her back to the Police Station.
The women around raised alarm
And within two blinks came armed men
With sharp blades and sharper eyes
And a deficiency of self-restraint.

The Inspector had predicted this
And pointed his baton up and straight
When two constables came running out
With large printed gray-scale photos
Of the woman cutting and stealing.
The people knew from the photo angle
The camera had been in the grilled window
Where the Inspector had left the CPU.
The Inspector then brought it out,
Placed it on his Jeep’s bonnet,
Removed the outer metal cover
To reveal a glimpse of divinity
Where the large exhaust holes had been.
The people saw Seipeyu’s third eye:
A webcam looking straight at them
Burning down their aggression.
The Inspector asked his constable
To step back into the Jeep
With the cuffs but without the maid,
And himself stood tall and told them all
He’s exorcised the tamarind tree.

And truly it has been fourteen years
Since a tap has been spirited away.

Stepping Up

Sometimes I dream of you.
And in those dreams
You come not
As you are now,
But as you were
All those years ago.

No.
That is a lie –
You come
As the one
I used to dream of
Back then.
As the person
I chose to see in you,
Instead of the one
Who was really there
Standing with me.

I haven’t stepped-up
In all these years,
Have I?

Eagle

It circles alone across cyan skies
On spring noons, wings outstretched,
Looking for someone, anyone willing,
To give a big warm feathery hug.

We stare at each other every day,
But when I don’t open my own arms,
It pretends it was just practising
Posing like Shah Rukh Khan.

I opened my arms wide today.
Closed my eyes too, welcoming.
But it sat on its perch, head crooked,
Letting me know how it daily feels.

God! I need a hug today.

All the best

For every monkey visiting our street,
We have ten boys with little stones
Ready to apply parabolas
And projectiles
And point-body dynamics.
But pen-fights in Physics class
Get them a P for “Probation”
Because you look for performance
Only on paper but not in practice?

They know how different motors work:
Enough to fix your bike and car.
Enough to fix your water pump.
Enough to fix your kitchen grinder.
Enough to fix your ceiling fan.
But not enough to fix your idea
Of how much they can move the world?

They know how much goes into concrete:
How much sand and gravel and cement
Goes with how much water and time
For paving a road, for raising a pillar,
For spanning a beam, for laying a roof.
Yet you come to me and put them down
And cite my premier engineering degree
As some confirmation of mastery
Though I’ve never even held a plumb?

And you’re going to head the state’s
Department of Higher Education?

House Parties

1.

Come as you are, she says.
All friends here. Come over.

Friends, my ass.
They eye my fraying shorts
That had once been my jeans,
And raise their noses to my hoodie
That has always been my hoodie.
Batman and Joker laugh together
At the baggy darkness under my eyes.
The werewolf and hobbit howl
At my bathroom-slippered hairy feet.
You’ve fallen pretty far, hunh?
Their smiles suggest.

What are you dressed as, one asks,
Offering my drink of choice.
The Creative, I say, the Creative.
And I take the water, thank you.
Who’s that, another asks. DC?
I marvel at his entrenchment.
No. Independent, I say.
They all say Aah.

Friends, my ass.

2.

When I tell them
Characters visit me
They nod like they know
I’m shitting them, but
They’re too high
Society to roll eyes.
They sit pissing smoke
Out of mouths, stinking
Of upward mobility,
And judge me.
So I tell them the lie
I tell my loony doc:
“Medication helps.”

That gets a cough.

3.

She snatches the book
And tells me to have fun.
I say I was, but she shrugs
And comes close, too close
To breathe a kiss on my neck.
Can your book do that?
She giggles and eyes me
And takes my hand over
To the middle of the room
Where others are dancing
Close to their partners
But away from the others.
I take her lead and move
My awkward legs stiff,
My awkward hands stiffer,
But she giggles and kisses
And I giggle and kiss back
And she jumps in celebration
And others clap and whistle
And I realise it was all a dare.

She joins her friends at the bar.
I join mine at the bookshelf.

Again. Again. Again.

Today’s belly doesn’t care
If yesterday’s got a meal or not.
Got to gulp one down. Again.

Today’s body doesn’t care
If yesterday’s got sleep or not.
Got to lie one down. Again.

No matter my state.
No matter my mood.
No matter the outcome:
Bad or good.

Today’s paper doesn’t care
If yesterday’s got a poem or not.
Got to pen one down. Again.