the last sin
  pale ashen sky
a bleary eye
clouds of recurring screams...
i am a zoo
  an octopus leviathan
tentacles into an ocean
of unformed emotions...
syphilis and love  
  syphilitic pall
stifles the clear blue
i contort...
shell and pearl
  amidst highs and lows
in life's ocean flows
a shell peony-mouthed...
i am an unmarried mother
  fed on stings
of barbed milk morality
my child-plankton...
the lovers
  cell upon cell
bridge of their union
hung on the pillars...
  ogre of age
and time cavil
at a warm picture...
the young today
  innocence thaws
at the altar
of ambition...

kankhal: lost innocence

shrill raucous bollywoodian invocation of the lord
street dogs serenading the devout with their weepy howls
an apology of a river knee-deep in places flows quietly by
emaciated lean scraggly a mirror to the milieu
on the bathing ghats sit multitudes of sad humanity
aware of their own insignificance rueful caricatures of life
their middle-aged women grotesque and shapeless
bow in supplication to stone and mortar idols installed
under imitation pipal trees being bathed in milk and honey

this means so much to them the ritual is the life
an escape from the vacuity of their meaningless existence a daily fix
over time the streets have wilted away and are now home
to human faeces and cow dung the urine lining its weather-beaten
woebegone sides bare torsoed bony kids play with water
from a perpetually dripping street tap a listless symphony
nearby piglets suckle furiously at their mother’s shrunken udders
in the bazaar sweet shops wear a busy look shorn of customers
their pot-bellied owners in ubiquitous pale white vest and pyjamas
preoccupied in swatting away the flies it's a chore
while the overhead fan comes to a standstill such is the pace of living

at the approach to the ancient temple of daksh once an abode
of shiva’s better half before her matrimony
a woman in her fifties with patchwork lines on her face has converted
her one room tenement into a local footwear shop: ‘micro shoes’
life has to go on even in unpoetic circumstances
a giant rustic cartwheel does its rounds in temple grounds

loudspeakers have captured the public imagination
prayer is no more a private affair there is a surfeit of religion
ashrams temples idols statues marigolds and merchandise
spirituality is the first casualty goes kaput
when the mammon sets the rules of the game
and a sleepy town that was once a haven of innocence
has lost its soul its grassy playgrounds have disappeared
in its gardens have sprouted homes of the purveyors of soul
slick merchants of hope oily glib talkers reeking of make belief
its people have become smaller shrivelled
the town now a replica of the other india

there is one word one melancholic overwhelming horrid word
that comes to mind as i pen these doleful lines
it’s called decay.

( 25-27 May 2002, Kankhal )

postscript: next morning i notice a middle-aged man feeding an eager
brown cow with rice and cereals…maybe there is still hope.