Friday, 28 November 2008

Midnight Mayhem

As the gunbattle rages in Bombay even as I post this, I am thinking of the time I had visited the Taj Hotel at midnight last year. With nowhere to go for a bite after a gruelling Friday night flight from Delhi - and the roadside rekdi's wiped off the streets by the cops in an attempt to curb antisocial activity - my friend and I opted for the Taj - even if it was only a burger I could afford for Rs 500 (+ tax). I remarked to my friend that the elderly waiter looked so Goan.

Midnight City

- brian mendonça

In the 3rd quarter of night
the streets are soulless,
From Santacruz to Colaba
sodium shimmers in silence.
The midnight menu
overlooks Elephanta
Chopin seeps through
Bastar filigree.
Colonial stone buildings
a caw signals dawn
Catholic boys play TT
and basketball at theY.
Death in a hotel room
fells the pride of Kaushambi
of youth, beauty, and love
the plot ends here.
Fast cars and corpses
‘The 4 Ltd goes to Mohammad Ali road’
At the window seat of the Andheri local
I am a school-boy once more.
Of bunked movies at Metro
Ten Commandments at Eros
Panic in a man’s eyes
a city on the run
Nameless Baristas
elbow out histories
Strand’-ed in Mumbai
Leopold’s beckons.
Where are those days
of kulfi and samosas??
Salvaged on a weekend
at a kerb at Lucky’s.
19 May 2007)

Third quarter of night: in Indian classical music, night has many divisions with ragas composed for each of these quarters; Sodium: street lights with an orange glow; Midnight menu: special menu at the Taj Intercontinental, Lands end, Mumbai; Elephanta: caves off the coast of Mumbai with Shiva carvings believed to date back to the 9th century; Bastar: tribal area in Chattisgarh known for exquisite carvings in bell metal and wrought iron depicting life; Y: YMCA International Guest House, Colaba, in the lane opposite Eros;TT: Table tennis; Kaushambi Layek (23) from Dumka, Jharkand was murdered in Sun and Sheel Hotel, Andheri, Mumbai allegedly by her boyfriend Manish Thakur (28) on 14 May 2007; Kaushambi is also the name of a Buddhist site near Allahabad, where the Buddha preached his sermons; Fast cars: a reference to the mowing down of 7 pavement sleepers by Alistair Pereira (21) on Carter road, Bandra, Mumbai in November 2006;4 Ltd: bus route of the city’s public transport service which the poet’s dad used to refer to, describing his day, when the poet was a child; Metro, Eros: names of old movie theatres in Colaba; Ten Commandments: The 1956 film by Cecil de Mille starring Charlton Heston as Moses; Strand-ed – Strand Bookshop was the only book shop in Colaba which graciously agreed to keep for sale 5 copies of the reprint of the poet’s book Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (2006) when approached; Leopold’s: one of the oldest café’s, on Colaba Causeway; Lucky’s: an old Irani restaurant near Bandra station, popular for its chicken biryani

And now one learns that young Goan junior sous chef in the Taj kitchen Bosco Rego (23) from the island of Divar was gunned down early this morning at about 0430. May his soul rest in peace.

My only tribute is one which comes from his beloved island of Divar which I visited before Christmas in 2006. Boris, Goa and the playful waters will miss you this Christmas.

Nossa Senhora da Piedade

-brian mendonça

Beyond the finial
history meanders
along the Mandovi.
Halfway across the fields
stands the lone mango tree.
Ferryboat Betim
sets course at Ribandar
Old Goa to the East
to the west, the palace of Adil Shah
Lágrimas e saudades
Tujhi vatt polloitat assum
Our Lady of Piety
towers over the centuries.

(Nossa Senhora da Piedade church
Divar island, Goa, 24 Dec 2006)

The huge baroque edifice of the church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (1699-1724) stands loftily on a hill on the island of Divar, Goa. Next to it is a cemetery with the Konkani words inscribed on the arch of the gateway 'Tujhi vatt polloitat assum' colloquially meaning 'I am waiting for you.' One of the tombstones had the Portuguese words 'Lágrimas e saudades' etched on it, which stand for 'Tears and longing.' At the foot of the hill, the river Mandovi flows past. The palace of Adil Shah was the summer palace of Goa's 16th century Muslim ruler, Adil Shah.
This poem was published in The Navhind Times, Panjim, Goa in the ‘In-verse’ space in the Panorama supplement on Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007
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