The Raj & the Rose

AVATARAS

At the back of the ship, at the height of the trip,
Drawn by the harmonies of Lord Vishnu’s call,
Navel-rooted lotus soft floats ‘cross the waters
Absorbing the beauteous Bay of Bengal,
Transcending to milk, pearly seaway of silk,
Thou lavender cushion of infinite white,
Surrounding the foetal spirit centripetal
Sucking upon toenails painted starry bright.

“Rider, thou art return’d to India,
Saraswathi, I see, has smil’d on you,
Thy mortal aura bless’d in her prayer,
Thine energies hued in a rainstorm blue,
Come drape thyself in the Himalaya,
For there, thy Rose of Sylver shall renew.”


TRIVIKRAMA

I sup sweet Soma-juice Vishnu to praise
O steed-bourne lord who stands on lofty hills
Let us witness these three Earth-measur’d steps
Three widely-striding paces thro the spheres
& laud him like some wild, steep-scouring beast
For midst those steps all creatures must abide.

Give vigour unto Vishnu, many-hymn’d,
Who sets himself apart & carves three worlds
Three sweet & imperishable places
& holds aloft, alone, all elements
His mansion to attain midst happy gods
Let us up to his highest footstep strive.

Where down on humblest oxen in the home
His bull-light showers joyous benefits!


 

THE TURNING OF ASHOKA

The year is 261 BC/ Following the bloody battle of Kalinga at Dhauli,
King Asokha is riding beside the River Nadi

Ashoka
O blessed day! What glory gain’d, the battle still pounds my senses
& in mine ears still echoes the cries of battle & death-yells loud
Those leonine roars, those clam’rous shouts, the din of drums & cymbals
& what sights – great elephants renting each other with bloody tusks
& great chariots exploding in shorn limbs & wooden splinters
But what is this? a worn woman weeps by the river running crimson
My goodly lady why shed thy tears on this auspicious of days
When I am flush with the victory & feeling very generous
Whatever on this Earth ye need my attendants shall see to

Woman
I hear you, Chakravartin, in thine armour as white as clouds
& yet, ye are a hypocrite for thy palms bestain’d with blood
& yes… there is one thing I crave upon this Earth above all others
To feel my husband’s loving warmth, but his body as cold as snows,
Some broken corpse – if ye lack power to make men, sire, why kill them?


 

CONVERSATIONAL ORIYA

Night fell on the many, many tranquilities of Chandipur
As I embark’d a stroll, astride its epic, crab-fluttering beaches
I heard a distant disco boom as if I near’d new Glastonbury
So thro’ the trees I darted into the dark village of Mizapur
Quite power-cut mysterious, & came upon a cavalcade
Of young endancing Indians, surrounded by prancing fireflies
A perfect place to practice phrases I had pick’d up on the road;
Tomorrow nar kono – they ask’d my name – mor Damo – I replied
Sundoro millano – I said – Apono komiti achanti
Mor bholochi – he answer’d & then offer’d me some turkurry
“Bhollo swado,” my compliments (for the sauce was very tasty)
I ask’d them – ke ta tonka – but they did not want one rupee
Ho donyobad – I thank’d him & then off like a prajapati
I moved on, musing to myself – mu Orissa Kuhalapay


 

HYBRIDABAD

Give me Saint Andrews with sea-views & putter
Or take me to Ascot to big-shot & flutter
Give me a hot-pot with good bread & butter
Or if not, just give me Calcutta

Give me the morning’s stroll ‘long the Maidan
Give me the games grand Garden of Eden
Give me the Hoogley’s green glide Thamesian
Whenever I yearn for my London

For as she was once the pulse of an Empire
& Edinburgh the mind that built the Raj
Then surely this great city was its soul

Where men would recreate their distant shire
Carving an architectural mirage
From native rocks, where hungry coolies crawl.


 

KATIHAR

There is a certain sadness in this land,
The handicapp’d are heap’d upon my heart,
The twisted feet of those too low to stand,
& me, all in their midst, yet set apart.

I wait all night to catch the midnight train
So many shudras spread about the floor,
A spell of blessed respite to obtain,
From drudgeries of being born so poor.

As grunting swine from meal-to-meal subsists,
Therein lies the archaic chaff of wheat
On which this young democracy insists,
‘Caste is caste & never the twain shall meet!’

Here, even dreams, which all should equal share,
Combusted by some tannoy’s constant blare.


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KANGCHENZONGA

I came on Pemagangtse in the night
A leopard passing slowly in the snow
Awaiting precious pinch of silver light
Announcing phoenix day in foetal glow

I gazed across the Kabrus unaware
That to these climes had Calliope come
Slopes glooming greys, as sunbeams fill the air
They turn the burnish’d burgondy of rum

Savitri’s spell impells the Sun to strength
Red turns to orange, orange burns to gold
& as all shadows shorten in their length
What summit sparkles white, where, very cold,

My muse sits, singing, wisest of the nine
“On Nanda Devi waits my sister’s sign!”


 

GOD

I march on different minds in different ways,
A force beyond all knowledges combined,
But let it now be known to each on Earth
I have a single name & that be God,
Tho’ splintered by the tangl’d knot of tongues,
When, as a man in Orchaa callas me Ram,
In Qadian as Allah am I praised.

Now reconciling all these diff’rences,
To every race a prophet have I sent
& filled them with the milk of mine intent,
A source of common good, a common source
From which this well-font of my message springs,
A clear soul-song for all who wish to hear,
Thro’ U find Heaven & in Heaven, Love!


 

LUCKNOW (1857)

General – My, how hot a day this is!

Reverend – I cannot agree with you sir,
There was a lovely breeze this morning,
The hour was three I think,
& if you ever had visited Stuffcote
You wouldn’t dream of calling this hot!

General – Stuffcote! Why, I have been there, sir,
Was there, in fact, for three years, sir,
It is one of the coolest stations in India.

Reverend – Poppycock! In August! What nonsense!

General – Yes, sir, especially & most particularly in August,
I have felt positively chilly all thro’ the month!

Reverend – Chilly? In Stuffcote? In August!?

Servant – More champagne, Sahib?


 

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NANDA DEVI

Up to the world’s rooftop I slowly rose;
Checking upon the progress of the soul
Appears a mountain prospect a la snows
Of Austria, New Zealand & Nepal.

I left Almora for the Kashyap Hill,
High commune of fairest tranquility,
Fresh dawntint drew me to the lofty chill
Of this monolithic Axis Mundi.

It seems for me the lips of Laksmi smile,
No sweeter place on earth to greet the sun,
Here summon’d by the lyrical lifestyle,
I whisper a gentle dedication;

“Until my feet have circuited the globe
My thought & life with poesy I shall robe.”


 

PHONE CALL FROM AGRA

I was staring at the back of this rickshaw driver’s neck
As I dragged my bags thro’ Agra, the Taj now just a speck
Of love dust immemorial, my mind’s eye to recall
Whene’er long life yearns deeply for some sheer uplift of soul;

In that place grew pure poetry, man-made & yet divine,
A funerary megalith whose Mughal marble wine,
Endrenches human spiritus with splendour thro’ its form,
All races & all nations round its majesty must swarm.

As I depart for Gwalior I think of absent touch,
For she was like a queen to me, I loved her love so much,
& haunted by her happy smile I’ve wandered far, alone,
Til mental peace has found me all my fuck-ups to atone.

So I shall get my mobile out & make that magic call –
Her voice was soft & happy – back in Sally’s love I fall.


 

RAI PRAVEEN

Beside the bonnie banks of Betwa’s stream
A beauty dwelt, beholding her a dream,
Whose reputation to great Akbar flew
By regal claws she to his throne-room drew,
But noble are Bundellas & their Queens
& so played out the wondrous of scenes
As with a poem she made devlish dig;
‘Hello King! You are King, not dog, nor pig,
& I am nothing but a plate well-used…’
Lord Akbar gasped, & gazed on her, confused,
While shell-shock’d audience grew hushly sure,
Such grave insult His Highness shan’t endure;
But no! Life’s nobler motions to protect,
He sent her home, alive & with respect.


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OVERTAKING LANES

Two saddus stood by the side of the road
Staring at a truck that had spill’d it’s load;
By that, an old wreck that just would not start,
Laugh’d at by a man in an ox-drawn cart,
& faster still; first a cycle rickshaw,
A dirt-green tractor from the days of yore,
Auto-rickshaw belching smoggy black smoke,
Mud-red moped missing many-a-spoke,
This lorry’s weird siren psychedelics,
Busses driven by mad alcoholics,
These, by breezy motorcycles bypass’d,
Then… an Ambassador of Rajput caste!

While gangs of robbers lawless highways stalk,
Y’know, it’s a nice day, I think I’ll walk.


 

POVERTY & WEALTH

Two goddesses bickered about beauty,
Prepared to start a second Trojan war,
Srinava’s wisdom thunders crore on crore,
‘My Jyesthadevi, my Laksmidevi,
There is a young carpenter of Bundi
Who is so very honest to his core,’
Soon goddesses were standing at his door,
“Who is the most beautiful, she or me?”

Our humble cobbler thought a mortal while,
& says ‘Laksmi most lovely on arriving,
Yet Jyestha gorgeous more when she departs;’
This answer made each goddess equal smile,
& he, celestial wrath surviving,
Learns flattery woos e’en immortal hearts.


 

JAIT SAGAR

If India can make a man a man,
More than the veshyalay of Amsterdam,
If thro the chaos he can make a plan,
Respecting Hinduism & Islam,

If he can give the beggar his rupee
& tip the tout that charges o’er the odds,
If he can read his Rajput history
& choose a god but still bless other gods,

If he can sleep upon the railway run,
Find fresh, clean waterfalls amid the dirt,
If he can wonder how the Raj was won,
Then pause upon the horrors & the hurt,

If he can haggle down & know his daal,
Then does he need to see the Taj Mahal?


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CREATION

As thro’ Mumbai I took the rickshaw home,
A great prostrate cow seem’d to be dying,
Guts on the pavement where she was lying,
But no… close by, lay her hour-old daughter.

I watch’d the wee one make her falt’ring first
Steps in the world, like an ambitious teen,
Thro’ her mother’s dung, slippery & green,
Then in the hot noon felt an earthly thirst;

Went looking for something, nuzzling half-blind,
She suckles on her mother’s rough larynx,
Who stands up, motionless as sandy sphinx,
& with a lick acknowledges her kind;

Who creeps now forwards to the golden teat
& clamps down hard as angels swoop the street.


 

DEPARTING INDIA

A decade pass’d since that piazza
Where first I flirted with the myrtle muse,
Now knoweth I a new peninsula
Whose galaxy of monuments enthuse
The spiritus, where all Earthly aspects
Have form’d a microcosm of the sphere,
A foundation for when I travel next,
Days of endeavour drawing ever near.

I spend a moment, musing on the wing,
As oer the sea of Araby we sail’d;
Around the Raj was flung a faerie ring
& all it’s channel’d poesis regaled,
I have succeeded in my soldiering
Where Ghengiz Khan & Alexander fail’d.
HOMECOMING

At last my gaze is cast oer English skies,
The thrills of one’s homecoming multiply,
Bursting through cloud we claim a poet’s prize;
Big Ben…Tower Bridge… & the London Eye.

I’m back at last, back from my epic tour,
Ten rupees all that furnishes my purse;
Scraggly & tann’d I call upon the door
Of compassion & an NHS nurse.

“It weren’t easy… I gush´d out dysentry,
Wee mozzy bites became massive bags of puss,
Salmonella, concussion, entwisted knee,
Neuropraxia… love, just look at us!”

“It’s lucky you survived”… I smil’d a smile,
“Dying,” said I, “It’s never been my style.”


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KARMA SUTRA

The city streets were alive with neon,
I knock’d… Rosie answer’d there delighted,
My favourite more-than-friend down London,
Her stairs were excitedly alighted.

I cook’d up a couple of samosas,
Chappathis, biriyani & paneer,
Making out to the Stars & the Roses
Over charas & charlie & cold beer.

I show’d her a book bought in Madurai,
The Karma Sutra’s esoteric scene,
“So, babe, do you wanna give it a try?”
We did & at a later hour serene;

My mistress asleep on my missile chest,
I felt that fragile bliss when East meets West.


 

SOUL KISS

What is a soulmate but a bud of love
Which flourishes & blossoms every Spring,
Ordain’d to weather, when Fall’s leather glove
Pale petals plucks & flings them in a string.

If these were lesser flowers then the frost
Would crush fair colours flush’d off by the melt,
But beauty’s higher darlings never lost
When destinies by deites are dealt.

Let us adore, once more, the white lily,
Those rows of dark-eyed poppies in the corn,
Let’s climb the long Lammermuirs all hilly,
‘Gan hand-in-hand with clemency reborn,

For when two souls from fluid form do gel,
They’ve rooted truth wherever they do dwell.


 

MY PENELOPE

As now I make that tender step in time
Back to my heather’d hearth of happiness,
She stands, the essence of this will to rhyme
Aloof, alone, in all her loveliness.

‘My love,’ I said, ‘back then I buck’d so blind,
But now I see you, Sally, soft & pure,
You are the only star that moves my mind,
For heart’s dull sickness are it’s only cure!”

Onto the airy, pinnacle of pride
I stepp’d, there Sally ask’d to be my bride
She with a searing smile bright-answer’d yes
& felt I then England’s Odysseus

When, with this won proposal, I propose,
To press the petals of this Silver Rose!

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