Friday, July 11, 2008

Jahanpanah Bahadur Shah Zafar - The Last Mughal

Jahanpanah [1] Bahadur Shah Zafar,
Saw dust over the Bridge of Boats, afar,
Standing on the ramparts of the Red Fort,
With wives, courtiers, ministers and consort.

His heart filled with hope and despair,
A feeling not unknown to a shayar [2],
Will his Hindustan after all be free,
From the White Man’s sword and decree?

To feed them where will he bring money?
Thomas Metcalfe [3] refuses to give him any,
His powers are naught and so is his court,
Quick, fight or befriend as they cross moat.

No, he’s not a soldier or a commander,
He’s a poet, writing verses of great candour,
Though martial blood runs in his veins,
For Timur’s cruelty he has much disdain.

He squandered wealth and kingdom lost,
To wine, poetry, and blank verse riposte,
Too many nights of poems and pretence,
Had left a debt he couldn’t recompense.

Away to his chamber that night he went,
After a message to mutinous armies sent,
You are welcome if you come in peace,
Do not desecrate or our culture disgrace.

But the mutinous army being common men,
Looted, pillaged and set on fire, and then,
Said, “Jahanpanah Where’s all your wealth,
For us to liberate, and live in comfort and health?”

To this Jahanpanah uttered threatening words,
“I will go to Mecca; condemn you to their swords,
I am too old and tired for the war you create,
To spoil my peace and my people alienate.”

“Go ahead; call me coward, that you can,
But I am no traitor like Asanullah Khan[4],
Or, my wife Zinat Mahal[5], or, Mohammed Baqar[6],
They will rot in their graves, those gaddar[7].”

“I’ve only done what a poet would’ve done,
Protected my art, people, wives, and son,
They’re greedy men those who covet and fight,
I am only a bard; my poetry is my birthright.”

[1] Ruler of the world
[2] Poet
[3] British Governor of Delhi
[4] Bahadur Shah Zafar’s prime minister
[5] Bahadur Shah Zafar’s wife who plotted to surrender to the British
[6] Editor of Delhi Aqbar and chronicler of the Sepoy Mutiny
[7] Traitor

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Slum-dweller

Curled inside a concrete pipe
Under the bridge
They had lived
Their hearts thudding against ribs,
As each trained clattered
And faded into distance.

Where they slept once
There’s now shredded concrete:
Naked bricks and rubble,
Chewed by mighty machines
Of the city fathers
Who said, “Of outsiders we must be free,
To build roads and Metros.”

The children, they cried
And cried to sleep
Till their throats were hoarse
And tongues dry, parched
Their hunger insatiate
From food foraged in garbage.

They were awaiting a peaceful tomorrow,
When today’s hubbub didn’t end
And the dream of a future
Faded before their eyes
The place they sqatted and shat
Became the swimming pool of a tower
The open place they went to fuck, a car park.

Together they journeyed
To a piece of sodden land
By the nullah in which floated scum and plastic
To a new life
A new beginning,
A new place to defecate
A new place to procreate.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Poet in Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Yes, it’s lonely in the ICU
These machines will cease
Once I stop exhaling,
So I should go on, exist,
At least, to keep their mechanics going.

No blip, blip of my heart
Will be heard ever again,
No words, no rhyme, no crude comment,
No fights, no threats,
On my forum, or on my blog
If I cease this struggle
To keep these machines alive.

These contraptions, they embrace me,
Their tentacles, tubes,
Pin me down
Enclose me,
Twine a tightly choking grip
As if they are scared of losing me.

If I were I to break out
And reach for pen and paper
To make a small note
Scribble a short Haiku
Perhaps, a Villanelle
No, a short Sonnet
About the summer’s passing
Outside the blinded ICU windows;
And if I do that
I will recover from afflictions
They would be bereft and orphaned.

I must exist, yes, I should,
For these machines they would die otherwise.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

If I Die....

If I die, will you mourn;
When I finally fall, will you scorn?
Will this world be a lonely space;
When I am in my final resting place?

Will my glorious words remain;
A forgotten song’s sweet refrain?
Or, will they be callously consigned;
To the earthen mound heaped?

I have written what I have written;
Thinking my words not misshapen;
But if this world doesn’t accept;
It’s their loss, promise un-kept.

Fame and glory weren’t mine;
Too long have I lived in others’ shine
Extremely humble to strike out,
Badger, cajole, grovel, or shout.

When the scent of lilies fade;
Will a tear down your cheek slide?
In the sunset of my life;
Will my goodness be remembered, my wife?