The Angle Here is all Awry
Here, the angle is all awry,
the infrastructure unprepared:
asphalt roads washed away, sorry
puddles drown flyover glory,
speeding drivers, splashing mud, scared:
here, the angle is all awry.
on these muddy pavements discard
all their auric, summer glory
to quench arid territory.
Delhi has no competent bard—
Here, the angle is all awry,
The downpour random, cursory;
here, leaves become thorns, barks grow hard,
asphalt roads washed away, sorry,
in the first, desultory
we await the rain, worry.
The angle here is all awry.
New Delhi, 24 June 2016
October in Delhi
“One of the key measures of air pollution in the national capital and its satellite towns like Noida was more than eight times higher than the safe limit… a ‘severe’ air quality that can see healthy people affected with respiratory problems and those with existing diseases seriously impacted. …The national capital also recorded high noise level on Sunday night.”— Live Mint, November 1, 2016
Were there always so many aeroplanes
darting across the nocturnal summer
sky, framed by your narrow bedroom window?
I can’t remember. How does one explain
this amnesia? Memory, like the covers
of our cushions, is stained with indigo:
other things—bread crumbs, cats, stray words—are stuck
in the fabric. This slips through. Just my luck.
October in Delhi: people drop out
like peppers turning into dragonflies,
swarming in the Mughal-red-brick sunlight.
The park is a sheer drop, a muted shout,
beyond my glass window. The night guard lies
on a broken bench, hungover. Urchins fight
over burnt-out roman candles, rockets,
stuffing dead fires into their pockets.
This is a lost season of smog, despair:
a grey darkness—claustrophobia—strung
between falling balconies in Khirki,
and Baroque Raisina Hill domes. The air
of AC metro stations smells like dung
burning, suffocating medieval trees
in Jahapanah with particulate matter,
drowning all who can’t flee or scatter.
Like the sad, sad pigeons, ubiquitous,
our days, memories, in circles, take flight
from one smoky winter to another:
daulat ka chaat, Sarojini socks, us
under a blanket, oranges, sunlight
retreating from Bahadur Shah Zafar
Marg, Lodhi Gardens. Dusk comes too early;
darkness obliterates our ruins… nearly.
New Delhi, 1 November 2016
An abandoned poem for G—
Dusk comes early to G—’s flat, his room;
houses in Delhi are designed to lose
heat, and though it might be bright, warm outside,
your sockless feet will grow cold in sunless
corners. So, after lunch — Bengali food
always makes one colder (And, this: lunches
with G— at Ma Tara, Market II,
on weekday afternoons is becoming
a habit) — we decide to take a walk
in the rocky park behind the temple.
“I could come here more often,” he muses,
“alone, or with A—, or in the morning,
reading or writing something; Karanjai
frequented Lodhi Gardens, seeking nature.”
The bench we occupy faces a rock
jutting out like punctuation amid
the text of verdant undergrowth, green, lush,
unlike along Ring Road or Malviya,
where a sheen of brown dust obliterates
cars, people, dogs, trees, buildings: incidents
in a daguerreotype on a damp wall.
We have no interest in botany,
or landscape gardening, or too much talk
of poetic craft, dishonest, bland,
plain boring. Those who don’t know how to catch
the sun in midflight or pluck off-beat notes
with overgrown nails of their little fingers,
scribbling words in an illegible hand,
sit around sipping imported whiskey
in their Lodhi Road or Jor Bagh bungalows,
trying to distinguish a sonnet
from a song:
Oh how the fuck can they
be poets? They have never tasted wine,
nor gambled, nor been beaten with their lovers’
slippers, nor seen the inside of a jail.
Letters of lost lovers are interleaved
in our notebooks with doctors’ prescriptions,
hospital bills, rejection slips, postcards
redirected from a post office washed away
by a flash flood of the Brahmaputra,
or one that a heritage train reaches,
after being lost for days in desert storm.
“The final poem is an abandoned poem,”
I declare, “like a girl who’s stopped talking
to you, after a fight, the reasons for which
neither of you can remember, even
if you tried — and trying’s a pain — after 10 years.”
November used to be colder, isn’t it?
Our sweaters and jackets remain packed up
at least till early December now. G—,
though, wraps the shawl around his frail shoulders
and we walk out of the park discussing
demonetisation, Uttar Pradesh.
No rebellion in us leaving the garden,
no iambic monologues, no burnt-wood
nostalgia, and no hope of return, grace.
There’s some talk of 1857:
at Khooni Darwaza on rainy nights,
the roof, they say, drips blood of hanged martyrs,
but you won’t get your lawful hands on us:
we are cunning, step-brothers of pickpockets;
no Gabriel or Urizen can reprimand
our trespasses, our honest circus tricks,
the taming of lions, zebras, unicorns.
Stopping a passing auto, we bargain
the fare. “Come again.” He strikes a match,
for a cigarette or Molotov cocktail,
I don’t know.
The dusk can’t make us disappear.
New Delhi, 29 November 2016
Poems have been taken from Visceral Metropolis (i write imprint, New Delhi, 2017), published with the permission of the author and publisher.