Poems by Lajan

Touch me not

a poem by

Lajan

Her eyes – the sea shore
alike impressions of leftover footprints
slowly, almost painfully slow
water trickling into it.

Lotus – gorgeous looking
holds globules of water, mercury-like
I yearn to be transformed
into a lotus leaf.

My hands- extended
I reach out…
she contracts at my gentle touch
like the Mimosa plant
touch me not.

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Roberto Baggio

a poem by

Lajan

I do not know if you remember him
I do; wore Italy’s colours once.

He’s the guy who got them single handedly
into the 1994 world cup soccer finals
and when it mattered the most-
blew it in the penalty shoot out.

I don’t know if he’s forgiven himself
I have;
some things aren’t destined to be,
and yet-
there’s a tragic beauty…
in loss, in ruins.

I’ll remember him, always
he tried, you know.

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Play the game

a poem by

Lajan

Roll the dice, raise the ante
and so what if the stakes are high?
Play the game.

Throw caution to the winds
go, go, go!
play it for double or quits.

The odds are heavy
the deck stacked against you
and yet, what else is there to do?

There’s an ace in the hole-
the one you do not know about
there comes the sucker punch!

Knocks you cold, sends you reeling
you might be down-
but not out.

Rise my friend, keep coming up
keep playing,
for – this is the game of life
the worst is over…
or yet to be?

Whichever, but play the game.

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A tree grows in new Building

a poem by

Lajan

A tree grows in New Building
that interferes with our playing
now, we’ve done everything there’s to do
tried everything there’s to try
and yet, the bugger perseveres!

It’s not even a tree, you know
it’s this wild thing
that grows, and grows!

We’ve dug out it’s roots
chopped it’s limbs
cut it’s trunk-
wound metal wires around it
why, even driven nails into it’s head!
And what do we have to show?
Cuts, bruises, rashes galore!

Not that it’s over-
far from over
we still have acid to go.

And yet, deeply,
almost against our collective will
we’ve come to admire the tree’s will
to live, to persist
I for one-
would want to be
like that tree some day.

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The best laid plans

a poem by

Lajan

I had a Grandpa
who went about it the scientific way-
the Chinese way
even the Vietnamese way
and yet – incurred losses
year after year.

Today, I hold in my hands- palms
seeds, that need to sprout,
germinate.

Now, I have the choice
to go about it the scientific way
wait and watch…
The best laid plans
come up to naught.

Or else, I have the choice
to throw them to the winds.

I choose to throw them to the winds
let nature takes it’s course.

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Mr. Plague

a poem by

Lajan

(on Surat – city of kites, cut-throats,
and polished diamonds).

Now that you have struck Mr. Plague
how do you like your victims?
Remember…
Do you remember?

October 31, 1984,
Indira Gandhi assassinated
put a whole God-damned Sikh family
into an oil tanker
and ignited it
phew, what a way to go!

Ram Janmabhoomi / Babri Masjid aftermath
blew off the electricity
stripped hapless, helpless, Muslim women
shot the act on video
Raam Ke Naam!

Now that you’ve struck Mr. Plague
what I would like to know is this
how do you choose your victims?
I mean, do you strip them
to ascertain as to
if they have circumcised penis?

Aah, and justice for all!

(Acknowledgement: e e cummings)

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Nostalgia

a poem by

Lajan

Firm hands those were
An entire lifetime spent-
hardened by the passage of time
I was awake. It was my Ma.
5.15 A.M. I overslept.
My day began
Routine chores done with.
It’s 5.45 A.M,
I put on my sweater, etc.
5.50 A.M. I can hear
the shrill whistle.
Yes, I got to run.

It’s chilly, dark outside.
I run, cold breeze
whistling through my ears.
streetlights out, very dark
I stumble upon something
A dog starts howling.
Pathetic, as if I almost killed it.
Suddenly the entire atmosphere
is surcharged with barks.
The silence of the night is shattered
I move on.

Railway Godown, a series of brightness.
It’s golden-yellowish. Sodium lamps.
The guard whistles. Signal-yellow.
I hurry. The engine puffs,
So does my heart.
Two more whistles. Signal-green.
I jump on to the tracks.
Again I stumble, but manage
to break the fall.
I lunge towards the platform
The coaches move on.
I exhilarate.
Manage to get hold of the bars,
Those hands pull me in.
Familiar faces, the window-
is half open. My friends.
Biting wind gushes in.
We cringe and make conversation.
It seems difficult.
Later
The train whistles – once, twice
Slows down, stops
Saij Sertha.
Voices. Pessimism? Door banged open
With it comes the wind. Chilling.
And so does the pungent smell
of Ammonia. Fertilizer Plant.
People come in. some remotely
Familiar, others, just strangers.
The train gathers momentum
Cutting through the darkness,
Rattling on with a musical note
Twilight appears, so does
Visibility, a little foggy though.
Everything seems dull, impotent, grey.
Second stop Khodiyar.
And then appears the orange glow.
and it becomes brighter and brighter
A big ball of fire
Creeping up the horizon
And there seems life.
The faintness starts disappearing
Life begins.

The buffaloes are being washed
Some grazing
Maidens fetch water
And men, children
answering nature’s call
Graying brown semi concrete huts, houses.
Cow dung cakes lying in piles.
Earthen pots, cows being milked.
It becomes a little warmer
and so do the commuters.
Fields – castor, mustard seeds and sunflower.
Bright yellow flowers.
The heart becomes lighter
Honk! Honk! Parallel to the tracks
It’s the bus.
Suburbs, the race against time begins…
Fourth stop. Ours. We get down
and so do the others
and move on towards the road
Its 6.35 A.M.

Six more hours to go,
to get hold of that diesel train
Vijapur Express
To come back home.

Bags packed. Its 12.20 P.M.
Bell goes.
We run
We can see the train
And we run, run and run
It hasn’t got the signal yet
There goes the honk – its yellow.
Hearts thumping, lungs pumping
We run
Its green, two more honks.
We are almost over the gutter
One after the other
We get hold of the train
As if to dear life.
And it zooms through.

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The haves and the have nots

a poem by

Lajan

The stars in the vast sky
that twinkle and blink
to ponder in wonderment
as to God’s creations
and to decipher their language
isn’t your prerogative alone
it’s mine as well.

Pearl-like dew drops, settled
delicately balanced
on the freshly mowed grass;
you believed then, naively though
when someone fed you
the cock and bull story
that those were a fairy’s tears
and so did I, when I was child.

While watching the multi-coloured butterfly’s
winged flights of fancy
you fantasized
felt an intense urge to fly
be carefree as the butterfly
and so did I, when I was a child.

On sighting a rainbow
awestruck, clapping your hands
in child-like glee
you did marvel at the ways of nature
and so did I, when I was a child.

While listening to the cuckoo’s mysterious calls
you called back, rather tentatively…
Yes, it answered back
it answered me as well.

The gentle breeze that blows across
tousling your lock of hair
is undoubtedly the same
that slaps me – though gently
across my face.

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The waiting game

a poem by

Lajan

Vultures all, waiting
hovering above
making sorties
as the lone, desolate man
makes his way across
the vast expanse of barrenness.

Carcass’ of animals, humans
punctuate the land scape
indicators-
of a life force
that once was – but no more.

With each step forward
his feet’s get embedded
deeper and deeper
into the sinking sand.

Vultures all, waiting
eager,
to gorge on his flesh
pick on his bones
yet cautious-
least he protest, show some fight.

Last seen,
the man was still headed forward
a mere speck
too small and insignificant
to have blazed a trail by his own
but a closer look reveals
a leading line-
made, not of his entrails
but by his footsteps
each step – a foot forward.

Vultures all, waiting
hovering above
making sorties…
playing out the waiting game.

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Tunnel Vision

a poem by

Lajan

How long he’d been there
he had no clue
this much he knew, though
he hadn’t seen light
not in a while.

To begin with, he wasn’t alone
there were others
like minded
able bodied
who fell by the way side
one by one…

Initially, he was mad with them
for having deserted him
for, wasn’t it their belief, too?
Then gradually… as time passed
he understood, perhaps it wasn’t
their fault…
and reconciled to his fate.

But he wasn’t happy with that, either
he raved and ranted
then raved some more
his voice reverberated in the darkness
then fell dead-
to his own ears.

It seemed so funny
that he started to laugh
here he was, all alone
in the middle of nowhere
and all he could think of
was to argue with himself!

There was no turning back, though
there were bridges-
that he had burnt on his way
fully aware, conscious
that once burnt
there was no turning back…

So he started to dig himself out
dug right through the core of earth’s heart
till finally, the tunnel opened…

Light poked a finger in his eyes
he couldn’t stand the glare
so he went back inside, again
and waited.

Time passed
then evening came
this time though
the light wasn’t as sharp
so the man came out
squinted for a while
till his eyes became familiar
took in the environment.

And he had dug his way out
in the middle of nowhere-
a desert.

That night he slept out in the open
there were zillions of stars
strewn across like dot pins
and he’d never seen so many stars
not under one sky
he gazed at them… then fell asleep.

Next morning, he was up
before the sun rose
kept his eyes focussed
least he miss out on some important detail
perhaps some sign of life
he needn’t have bothered-
there wasn’t any.

The sun rose, kept rising
till it was on his top
he looked into the distance
thought he saw a mirage
then started in its direction
but instead of withdrawing
the mirage kept coming at him
the man thought he was hallucinating
seeing things…

Yet the figure kept advancing
till he could see the man-
a lone, desolate man
making his way across
the vast expanse of barrenness.

They both stood there,
in the middle of nowhere
looking at each other
each- the mirror image
of the other.

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Remains of a smile

a poem by

Lajan

A gentle breeze precedes her arrival
carrying with it
a carpet of Gul Mohur blossoms
lying in the dust
their brief moment of glory – spent.

The skirt, all of red
twirls around those tapering legs
exposing for a split second or two
their exquisite whiteness.

Arched eyebrows, sculpted countenance
ivory smooth neck, wispy tendrils clinging like sin
voluptuous lips- crimson in colour
an invitation for… what else?

Insolent, insipid look
perhaps… a bit too rehearsed
as if I was some kind of an outcast.

Those lips fluttered
at least I thought they did
shadows, or what remains of a smile…
lingers.

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Flight of the kite

a poem by

Lajan

How was it like?
Well… like a kite
in ecstasy one moment
hardly airborne the next.

Soaring high
in the clear blue sky
a sudden gush of wind
that’s all it needed
carried away to greater heights
almost majestic.

And once cut loose
drifting… aimlessly
descending slowly
the wind – merciless
tossed furiously,
to and fro… to and fro
until finally, ending up caught
in a thorny Babul tree.

The end, one might think
but this isn’t the end
the beginning!

The boy climbs the tree
braving the ants and the thorns
disentangles me
I fall onto the ground
the boy descends hurriedly
before the grazing goat
can make a meal of me!

“Now let’s see what we can do…”
his knotted eyebrows seem to say
fishes out some Gundar Patti (sallow tape)
a stick here and a stick there
and behold! I survive.

The boy carries me home
with a song on his lips!

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A girl, a boy and an umbrella

a poem by

Lajan

I am not sure
if I am supposed to be telling this-
if at all…
but what the heck!

I have a friend, male
who had a friend, female
let’s give her a name
Bindi! how’s that for a name?
no?!
I like it, though!

We have a long running feud
with Bindi’s family-
thanks to cricket balls!
that used to land in their balcony
every once in a while.

The last couple of years
things have eased off
for one – they have put up a Jaali
and two, we’ve changed directions.

But the time I talk about
is much before that.

Once, after one such altercation
me and my friend just sat
and bitched about Bindi’s family.

Then out of the blue
my friend dropped this on my head
you know, he said
me and Bindi, we were friends once
grew up together,
played together!

My friend and Bindi
though in the same class
went to different schools.
Bindi had a morning school
my friend had an afternoon school.

It was the rainy season
and Bombay’s rains are quite unpredictable
when my friend left home
there was no rain
so he didn’t take an umbrella
midway he was caught in a torrent
then whom does he see but Bindi
coming back from school
and she had an umbrella
she saw my friend, saw that he was fully wet
and gave him her umbrella
and my friend -the idiot
took it!

But you were already wet, I said
yes, I was, said my friend
then why did you take the umbrella?
She was insistent, he said,
said she didn’t want me to get wet,
catch a cold…
but you were already wet, you stupid fool!
yaa… my friend drawled, but try telling her that!
boy! that killed me!

In effect, both of them got wet that afternoon
and yet – an umbrella had exchanged hands.

So, what went wrong, I asked my friend
nothing, said my friend,
I grew up
surely she must have loved you
at the least… cared for you
I don’t know, said my friend
so, who stopped talking first?
You or her?
Me, said my friend
why, I asked
it felt awkward
but she used to still talk to me
it’s just that I didn’t feel comfortable
so I stopped…
The rains stopped too.

My friend is married now
father of a baby boy
by the name of – what else, but Bobby!
You should see the way he smiles,
puckers, like a chimp
straight out of National Geographic!

Bindi too, is married now
no, no issues so far.

But I wonder!
what if she had a baby girl
and lived in the same building
and not with her in-laws.

Then, my friend’s Bobby
and Bindi’s baby
would grow up together
play together
and before you knew it
they would be in school
this time though,
Bobby would have a morning school
and Bindi’s baby would forget
to carry an umbrella
midway, the heaven’s seam
would burst open
rain drops would keep falling over Bindi’s baby
Bobby would amble along
give her his umbrella-
which once, not so long ago,
belonged to her mother.

And Bobby would come home wet
sneezing, much to his father’s amusement!

And in some way
a circle of life
would get completed
after all-
an umbrella had exchanged hands.

Like I said
I am not sure
if I am supposed to be telling this-
if at all…
but what the heck!

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Silhouettes

a poem by

Lajan

Shapeless shadows, juxtaposed
dance about in merriment
in a perfectly choreographed synchrony.

my attempts to give form
to these abstract entities
fail miserably.

‘Cause every time I draw an inference
with something concrete,
it changes form.

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Pipe Dreams

a poem by

Lajan

Seconds, minutes
hours, days and months
fuse together
merge and blur into nothingness
waiting for that one elusive phone call, saying:
yes, you can collect your advance, you can shoot.

When there are no dreams to pipe on
but Cavanders
a picture forms…
of a cute, chubby, glassed girl
stuck in a gate
my jaw thaws – breaks into a smile
I grin like an ape!

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