The Indiad

THIRTY-SEVEN THOUSAND FEET

Across Europa we have both progress’d,
By foot, by boat, by tram, by bus, by train,
But this hour, from a cool & pleasant plane,
Sees me sailing air on a grander quest,
The scenes by cyan skies & soft cloud blest,
How seldom seen & varied the terrain
Of ashen peak, urban sprawl, verdant plain,
Gleaming sea, wastes of sand & wylde forest.

As soon as we abandon Europa,
I could already taste the eastern scent,
The sun was setting west of Syria,
The starry heavens singing its lament,
As somewhere yon the grey Arabia
My pilot was beginning his descent.


 

MUMBAI

Our plane approaches as the ghostly wraith,
Thro’ nights black regions steadily she falls
Into this lab’rinth of a billion souls,
Vast myriad of language, race & faith.

So, I am come, come to this sultry shore,
First diamond of the crown Victorian,
Earth’s epicenter, an empyrean
Melting pot of empires to explore.

By eastern flair was western thought inspired,
I am recently led to understand,
With me I have fetch’d a mind of England
& all my love for beauty there acquired.

When, swooning ‘neath an infant urchin’s, “Please!”
How many times would I see sights like these?


keri beach.jpg

KERI BEACH

I watch’d the reaching out of Dawn’s arms red,
Both wrapp’d about the beach on which I led,
Saw little twitters skip the zenith crest
Of waves flung shorewards, falling foam abreast;
Ahead, the full moon gave the waves good gold,
Behind, deep-banded amber branding bold,
When starry rays made way for planets three,
They, too, into the blue illume did flee.

As round the moon rose-fingers floating meet,
Morn’s cyan-curtain’d opening complete,
As fishermen & dogs began day’s dance
Still on the sands I lay, a man entranc’d,
For as full moon thro’ blinking cloud distills,
What flaming sun-chink winks out from the hills!


 

THE EAR CLEANER

Stepping out one golden Goan morning,
Drowsy with the sunken sun’s adorning,
Content was I to be in nature’s hand,
Soul-freshen’d as bare feet sunk into sand,

From out of nowhere stept a wizen’d man,
“Sahib! cleaning your hearing well I can!”
Shows Western praises in his little book,
Black blocks of wax from both my ears he took

I shook the hand that scrubb’d my hearing clear
Said fond farewells & watch’d him disappear
Round red & rugged hill flank’d by the view
Of Konkan coast careering into blue,

When first found I the profits of his fee
I’d never known how sweetly sounds the sea!


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THE INCREDIBLE INDIA CODE

1 Book your tickets in advance
2 Expect the unexpected
3 Never trust a tout
4 Keep tabs on yer tabs
5 If they say they’re a masseuse – they’re not
6 Murder all mosquitoes before bed
7 Never trust a fart
8 Anything is possible in India
9 Check your room thoroughly before leaving
10 Picking up stones scares off dogs & monkeys
11 Eat with your non-wiping hand
12 “I was an Indian in another life!”
13 Plenty of change for journeys
14 Ask five different people for directions


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FORT COCHIN

Come share a second with serenity
Up in this lake of European rooves,
This crescent lamp’d oer th’Arabian sea
Lulls me thither, I hear the sound of hooves…

At once a sacred chime grows on the breeze,
Some teller of a thousand ancyent tayles,
Some from the world’s crop-fellers overseas,
Some cross the Karakoram’s lofty trails,
Some were seekers of immortal glory,
Some content to be husbands, to be wives…

Tho’ the vision all clutter’d & hoary,
With me a single memory survives,
Being extras in the global story
We are stars in the movies of our lives.


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KARANCI

I took a breath or two of night time air
My heart not knowing why, my legs not where
The starry skies obscured by gremlin cloud
I headed for the hilltop temple loud
Where rattled such a throng of Saivite
Songs echoing thro ‘Niligrisian night
Seeming another Tuscany to me
For India oft felt like Italy
& all was silver as a Silver Oak
For searing thro the deep & astral smoke
I found there was a full moon pulling clear
Are these the moments poets hold so dear
Thro selene scenes setting dream-trails in store
When ´morrow morns may pass these ways once more.


 

INDIA

Nation of nations, hot & happy land!
With spicy dishes morsell’d by the hand,
Being a valourous & graceful race,
Thy universal mullet firm in place,
Despite taking three men to stamp a form
& creative corruption Laksmi’s norm,
A fanaticism for the rupee
Cements this secular society
Of power-cuts & cripples & bazaars
Beneath a pristine panoply of stars,
Of swastikas & cricket in the streets,
Bounteous crops & oversugar’d sweets,
Ashrams soothing riot-torn religion
Where always blaze the rays of Asia’s sun.


 

KINDERGARTEN HINDI

1 eak – namaste (hello)
2 do – ya happa hey – (where is the)
3 teen – kitana whoa (how much)
4 char – bo d’achah (very tasty)
5 paanch – kitana baja (what time is it)
6 chay – jana (see you later)
7 saath – apa nam (what is your name)
8 aath – no me england kahun (I am from England)
9 xxx – kaha ja rahay ho (where are you going)
10 dus – teek (yes)
11 giara – nahee – (no)
12 bara – dandabad (grazi raggazi)
13 tehra – ap kesayhen (how are you)
14 chowdah – pulpit (full/enough)


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INDIAN RAILWAYS

I found myself waiting at this train station,
Not for a train, it was just to buy a ticket,
Not even for that day, but eleven in the future,
The next one available from Cochin to Calicut;

& I´m waiting & I’m waiting & I´m waiting nit-pick longer,
& the guy behind the desk´s on his third guy in an hour
& I was fourth, but the seventh guy´s hand starts waving
His reservation form as the third guy was about to finish;

So, I warned fifth, sixth, & seventh they´d be foolish for linecuttin,’
After all, I’d bin in the sun all day like a mad English dog
& my legs felt like lead & I was definitely, definitely, goin’ next…

So, the third guy finishes, & just as I thrust my form thro’ the window
The fella behind the desk decides he needs the fuckin’ toilet…
Then, when he’d finish’d, the scoundrel closes the window fer lunch!


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KANYAKAMARI

I stepp’d onto Vivikenanda’s rock
There paus’d, of situation took full stock,
Before me, some vast fan, India spread,
Behind, lay endless ocean, grey as lead,
Above, & to the side, a statue rose,
Some noble poet in his noblest pose,
& as I gazed I swear he winked at me.

Into my mind th’Orphean frequency
Sang, ‘Boy, wherever in the world ye be
Remember me!’….
‘TisThiruvalluvar!’
Says saddhu, startl’d by me, who had seen
Or sens’d a dream twyx poets, inbetween
A butterfly thro’ silver sea-spray flew…

…The boat-bell rang, I sprang to join the queue


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BASIC TAMIL

1 Woner = Wanacum (hello)
2 Render = Nan-dray (thanks)
3 Mooner = Yevolovum (how much)
4 Nar-lee =Rumba Soo-aye (very tasty)
5 An-jer = Time Enna (what time is it)
6 Ah-roo = Poy-too-varen (see you later)
7 Air-lee = Oon Pair Enna (what is your name)
8 Eh-ta = Nar England (I am from England)
9 Umbodoo = Nalla –kay (tomorrow)
10 Pa-too = Ama (yes)
11 Padi-nooner = Ill-ai (no)
12 Panander = Nunbar Nan-dray (grazi raggazi)
13 Padi-mooner = Nalamar (how are you) –
14 Padi-nar-lee = po-dum (full/enough)


 

THIRUVALLUVAR

As I rested on a fine, empty beach, by the Bay of Bengal,
In a soft second of existence I was alerted to a flutter of birds,
A mile or so along the coast I kenn’d a distant figure approaching,
An old man swathed in white robes, sporting a thick, black beard,
I expected him to pass, but as he came to within a few metres
He veer’d slowly towards me, leaving nor footsteps in the sand,
“What is your profession?” he curtly asked, “I am a sonneteer, sir!”
His magnificent eyes burrowed into the heartlands of my soul,
“By any chance, are you carrying a silver rose?”
Astonish’d, I shew’d him the bloom around my neck…

…After humming an Upanishad he said, “I’ve been expecting you,
As seven words a kural make, seven kural form a sonnet!”
This was for me high epiphany to the hidden depths of sonnetry!


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TRANSLATIONS FROM THIRUKURAL

As ‘A’s announce alphabets
Divinity initiates existence (1;1)

Rain’s continuance preserves existance
Speaketh, then, ambrosia (2:1)

Falsehood conferring faultless fruitfulness
Nature’s truth contains (30:2)

Kingly fame fades forgotten
Without righteous government (56:6)

When soldiers fear bloodshed
Kings cry destitute (77:1)

In miserable poverty’s train
Many more miseries (105:5)

Her jewels perplex me
Celestial? Peahen? Women? (109:1)


Indian Butterfly
Indian butterfly & wylde flowers

NALATIYAR

Her :
O lord of fertile land & everflowing waterfalls
O lord of cool sunshine warming ocean´s running waves
O lord of good country with beautiful ebony mountains
O lord of flowery hills with lush & sparkling waterfalls
O lord of honey-bearing woods in the good country
O lord of long seashore with fine, unfailing salt-pans
O lord of the hills with lovely sandal groves on
O lord of cool lagoons & bays brimming with water
O lord of prosperous vineyards & huge gem-studded caverns

Him :
O beautiful lady with breasts like budding flowers
O lady of beautiful hair with fragrance of musk
O lady of long-eyed spears & bow-like eyebrows

Him & Her
O lord of bewitching victories bring these beauties to me


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DEPARTING FOR ANDAMAN

Gazing across exotic ocean stream
Shamrock musing drifts to distant Burnley,
Where for as long as breathing there shall be
My family, my friends, my football team –

So far away, for following my dream
I am a stranger in a strange contree,
Though slowly hook’d upon its cup of tea,
Darjeeling serv’d up with a Devon cream.

The sun has fallen & the ship has sail’d,
The last lamps of the mainland shrink & fade,
A momentary notion has prevail’d,
As Vagu & Varuna soft notes play’d,

Next time by solid ground my feet regaled
Into youth’s fleeting heart I shall have stray’d.

 

CASTAWAY

Down southern Andaman lies Jolly Bouy,
Thick with bright coral & of snorkling joy,
I spent an hour lagooning in a laze,
& fell astoned… then woke… to my amaze
The boat had left me… deserted, alone,
No rizlas, samosas, water, nor phone!

A mile or so across the sharky foam
A trail of smoke show´d someone was at home,
I built a brushweed raft, but that soon sank,
So off I swam, my goddess I should thank
For showing me this was a wild riptide,
Young muscles haul´d me back, I´d nearly died.

When, waving to distant boats, at sunset,
I was the strangest fish they’ve ever net.

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