A city unfurls as you meet poetry
On its streets


I. FLAW said god to man

Fast, Furious
In slow-mo

A Perfect, accurate
In freehand,
Where the beginning is the end.

Your act
For Perfection is overrated

For you are no Prophet.


II. I SOLD CHEAP said the man on the street

I picked up pieces from the floor and
Joined them.

I cut a large chunk off my heart,
(Bloodlessly – take that Shylock!)
Filled it up with junk
And now I hear the Devil is in town
Looking for a soul instead.

I could give mine but I don’t own one
I wagered it for a piece of bread


III. FALL said yards of tradition

I fall beautifully,
I spread out unabashedly
Over and Around,
My forms in your hands

I reveal and cover and
I cover to reveal
A hide and seek in yards?
Reveling in my Indianness
Rewarded by the approving eye
I refuse to fade into abstractions.
I have borders you see!
I am a saree.


IV. MASK THOUGHTS said the pretenders

We say them not
So they hurt us not
Our masked thoughts
They are there.
They exist.
But we pretend to see them not.


V. BOMBAY DUCKED said the ailing city dweller

Severely indisposed,
Paralyzed existence

Diabetic deeds and words,
Heartbreaks and attacks,

The diarrohea drains.
The aches. The pains.

Product of city living
A diseased life.


VI. KNOCK ME TO STOP, GET OFF said the local train traveller

Thakar thakar thakar
Goes the train typewriter
Thakar Thakar Thakar
Writing between lines

Of a shoulder tap tap tap
Saying ‘MOVE’
Of a shove shove shove
Shouting ‘GET OUT OF MY WAY’
And a rare tug tug tug
Offering a seat

Thakar thakar thakar
Goes the train typewriter
Thakar thakar thakar
Writing between lines

Of a tak tak tak
Chopping of vegetables
Of a trrip trrip trrrip
Playing music with stones
Of a clip clop, tick tock
Scrambling of people getting off
Of a swish swish swish
Sweeping of the littered floor

A rustle of newspapers,
Snores of the tired,
Wails of a squished child
Chatter of women
Giggles of girls…

Thakar Thakar Thakar
Goes the train typewriter
Thakar thakar thakar
Writing between lines

And then, a Knock Knock Knock
A gentle knocking in my head
It’s my station.

Full stop.


VII. PURE MATHEMATICS said the old lady from the Parsi Colony

I added the joys
When I subtracted him

I had multiplied,
They all stand divided today.

I integrated my life
With differentiation

And now, a null matrix!

Mathematics never made much sense to me
But I’ve finally learnt it the functional way.


VIII. SOUR CREAM AND ONION? said family under the blue tarpaulin

The flavor,

Different for them,
Cool, tasty, and affordable

Sour grapes (Cream? Ha!)
For us
And only onions.


IX. FOLLOW said the mob-man

I am a born Hindu,
I must support the saffron brigade
Asquint in the name of patriotism
Kick up frenzy
With Allah o Akbar and Om Jai
Abuse the outsiders in Bombay
No, not Bombay
I must say Mumbai
If I am to claim the city as home.

Bharat Mata Ki Jai!


X. MILES AWAY said the silence on the telephone

Cornered on a stool,
Held up by the jargon over the telephone
miles away

An old song plays in my mind
Hundred, five hundred miles away
From the world of living
The song dies.

I grieve in silence
‘Hello! Are you there?’
‘Yes, um yes…’
Cornered, Trapped, I resume.


XI. NOW I KNOW said the one who lived and learnt

Now I know…

…The fears of the unknown
The tears of the uncared
The loneliness of the un-belonged tribe
Sleepless nights and drowsy days
Unshed tears that burn the eyes

…How lies merge into lies and form truths
How silence-s silence all thoughts
How life and love go waste

…What I did not know then
That nothing lasts forever
Cause forever is just another word.


XII. PROCESSIONAL ENDS said the onlooker-mourner

The tazia of desires is being prepared
Storeys over storeys
Of that heinous green thermocole,
Carefully pasted mirrors and
Ornate windows
Held up by bamboos.
Layers of belief
Desires and
Bound together
To reach the end
The Karbala.


Shriti K. Tyagi

Shriti K. Tyagi

Shriti K. Tyagi started as a theatre aficionado, and founded a theatre group called The Manna Makers. She won the Katha Translator of the Year Award in 2006. She has worked with The Gender & Space Project and Micro-Cultures, Mumbai, and the editorial team of ART INDIA Magazine. Her journey culminated in Beyond Bombay & Beyond Delhi — niche travel collectives that run concept-based walks, engaging people with the past and present of the cities they call home. Her most recent walk, designed to trace the Outbreak of Plague in Bombay in 1896, was part of the Tabiyat :Medicine & healing exhibition by Wellcome Trust, London showcased at Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghrahalaya, Mumbai. She is currently working on ‘space’ poems on Mumbai to create a poetry walk.