Monthly Archives: February 2009


When I lie
to you, you cough

Not a hacking,
accusing bark
outraged at the
but a gentle,
gentlemanly ahem,
properly done
into a clean

As if to say-
Excuse me,
I didn’t quite hear




Tender, coconut

My mother had a way
of breaking coconuts
with a single blow
at the right spot.

She rolled the hard
oval, in a sure hand.
A precise sickle, waiting
in the other.

‘Ah’, she said. Before
the word ended, it
had split. White flesh.
Tender, cool, inviting

And scraped quickly
off, by jagged claws
of iron. Soft shards
ripped from a reluctant

Desiccated, dried,
frozen. A daily violence
in an otherwise peaceful

Second home

Varali now has another blog. Named for one of her favourite trees. Into which she’ll throw some poems and perhaps prose she doesn’t want to post here, for complex reasons.

But this new blog she wants to keep private. WordPress is a delight in many ways but doesn’t allow passworded blogs. So she won’t link to it here. But if you ask nicely (on email), she’ll give you the link. And hope you won’t share it.


L, the lady who comes to help my mother with chores around the house was crying today. I asked her why and she said her daughter had converted to another religion. Her daughter works at a small scale factory, making some plastic ware. She discovered the religious pendant on her daughter’s chain yesterday.

When confronted by the family, her daughter told her that everyone in the factory had been coerced into converting. Refusal meant losing the job. When I suggested she could find work elsewhere, L sobbed louder and said all factories were the same. They all wanted you to convert.

I am not particularly religious, and don’t see the problem if the whole world were to convert overnight to one or another religion. What does bother me is the use of coercion. Forcing anything on anyone, whether a religion or a food habit or a clothing sensibility, gets my hackles all raised and my neck bristling.

I feel helpless for L, because they need the money her daughter brings home desperately. Buying their religious allegiance is blatant exploitation. Being told if you don’t want to convert, you are free to quit the job is clearly giving you a false choice. But I don’t know what options she has, considering her daughter did not even complete class 8. If anyone reading this has something to suggest, I would be happy to hear it.


there is no chandelier, but there should be.
the paintings are all in place, mementoes too-
fourteen countries can be found in this room,
where two ordinary people sit refusing
to meet each other’s eyes.

a man in a faded tweed coat is making love
to his guitar. alcohol and smoke bring tears
and confessions to his listeners. she is draped
over a chaise lounge with paisley upholstery –
a blue street in ankara holds her total attention.

a study of four apples and single grapefruit,
stilling the life of a thin, thinly-mustached lad
in a green silk shirt. he counts them, four-one,
one-four, four-one, afraid to stop and audit
instead his fading lies.

watercolour crows watch the proceedings
with cold regard. when the last chord
is plucked, two pairs of eyes lift their heavy lids
and look at the old musician, meeting,
unwittingly in his sightless gaze.


All this talk of blood
and bruise, scars
and abuse, blackness
and swollen blues,

Closed rooms, muffled
cries, public lies, disguise,
bound ankles, burnt wrists

Nooses, shorted fuses,
kerosene, gasoline,
hush money, gunny
sacks and broken backs

Is real. And makes
for something worse
than bad poetry.

Birds from my balcony

Come winter, the mango-tree in the old, crumbling house behind our apartment building becomes a very interesting place. White-browed Fantails, Brown Flycatchers, Orioles and on one occasion, an Indian Pitta, turn up either for season-long stays or just for one evening.

Other birds regularly seen on the tree include Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Great Tits, Pale-billed Flowerpeckers, Common Tailorbirds, Red-vented Bulbuls, Coppersmith and White-cheeked Barbets, Rose-ringed Parakeets, White-breasted Kingfishers, Brahminy Kites, Black Drongos, Common Koels, Jungle and Common Crows and Common Mynas. There are surely more, but these are the ones I can recall off the top of my head.

I haven’t made more than a couple of very lazy attempts to photograph the birds. But here are two pictures, both taken about two months ago. The yellow one is the Black-naped Oriole and the other is the Brahminy Kite.

Black-naped Oriole
Brahminy Kite