Saturday, 29 August 2009

Morning Walk - Delhi south


Beaming yellow bananas
placed strategically by a woman
on a cart at the kerb
begin my morning walk
from Alaknanda to Tughlakabad Extn.
Past two pathetically maintained 'parks'
liberally splattered with fresh dung,
I dodge my way on to the paths of mud and stone
(so rare these days
with the hideous concrete jogging tracks)
Up ahead to the right
is the 'University of Kashmir, Srinagar'
an oasis of peace epitomised in Rabia mosque.
Jamia Hamdard, 'Salam aleikum'
07.57 - I'm on my way back home again.
Park no. 1 has urchins playing 'gilli-danda'
and a toddler sweeping the ground
In park no. 2 I meet smiling
Bikram Kumar (14) from Patna
Bikram 'de-jines' P.O.P. ceilings with floral motifs
No, he hasn't heard of Madhubani
But on the mud with a stick he draws
a perfect 8-petalled flower.
Further on, in the green glade
Salim (17) rolls a cigarette with 'ganja'
A conductor on a bus, he makes 5 trips a day
to 'Naee Dilli' station from the 4th city.
Back at banana junction
I turn left at New Springfield's School
where sheepish parents with angelic children
behold the school's shut iron gates,
From a mobile police jeep
a Delhi Police officer, revolver at his hip
surveys the scene watchfully.
I buy the weekend Mint Lounge for Rs 3
from a cycle-borne newspaper delivery youth
Why, there's Wendell smiling at me from Prague!
Fresh tomatoes and cucumber, 3 lemons for Rs 10
From the corner of my eye, comes a teenage girl
tall like a pine, waist like a key ring
she hurries along chaperoned by a bored guy
The street is full, the dogs are out
Its a new day, in a new way
My spirit soars free
in my hymn of life.


Glossary
University of Kashmir: Jamia Hamdard recalls the campus of Kashmir University, Hazratbal; Salam aleikum (Arabic): 'Peace be to you' ; 4th city: Founded in 1321, Tughlakabad is one of the 7 ancient cities of Delhi; Gilli danda: a game children in India play with two pieces of wooden stick; P.O.P.: Plaster of Paris material usually used to make false ceilings; Madhubani: traditional folk painting of Bihar; ganja: cannabis/hash/ marijuana;Wendell: Goan designer Wendell Rodricks


Autumn Woman


You scour the kerb
for a rickshaw in end-October
The morning is breezy and chilly
A yellow leaf falls
on my morning newspaper.
I thought winter hearkened
So why do you wear dark glasses
and reveal your bare, smooth arms?
A cotton sleeveless kurti defines your gait
Jeans hug your waist
in careless abandon.
Tell me the season
Sylph of morning.
Does one still shed one's clothes
in a summer reprieve
or is it just that
you are too hot?
I am confused
as the city awakes.

(27 October 2009
New Delhi)

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Published in South Asian Ensemble 1.1 (Autumn 2009). A Canadian Quarterly of Arts, Literature and Culture of and for South Asian Diaspora. www.southasianensemble.com

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