The crossing

Was crossing the road

It is not like crossing anything else
A Trailer
Might partition into pieces
Or a Hummer,
In a second, make one a nonentity
Or a tin can of a vehicle
Take away your hand or leg.
Even if your last wish,
In case you have to die in an automobile crash,
Is that it should be the red lancer car you are very fond of,
Which court will listen?

On the other side of the road, there is a neem tree
Its dark green leaves are visible.
No, cannot see the bitterness,
But it is possible it is.

I have to cross the road.
I have to stand a bit under the green on the other side
Those birds have to run away (no, not fly!)
And come back just the way they went.

What then? It is, after all, the road that was crossed,
Which is something!

While crossing the road, came a Trailer
Whose driver was a Tamilian
A Hummer came,
In which there was a father, his friend,
Mother and two kids

The kid was singing loudly
The friend was thinking about his girl friend
A rickety old tin can of a vehicle  too came
It was full of wine bottles
For the next century

What then?
Trailer was divided into many pieces
Hummer made one a nonentity in a second
The old vehicle took away two hands, one leg, and two ears.

Now the one who looks this way from the other side:
Is it the one who reached the other side,
Or the one who was standing here,
Or the one who crossed the road,
Or the one who has to return?

Translation : Anitha Varma

The day you came

The first day
God came face to face

Spring, in front of the tree
That had forgotten roots and leaves

The slender note of complaint
Made to its friends
By the cloud that got lost

The goddess’ voice
Unheard by any but water

The flower garden
In front of which
Grass grows with abandon

The darkened house
With cow dung – smeared floor

A cluster of moments
Of butterflies cavorting in the rain

The playhouse
Made of the wings of fireflies and moths

The seaside
Where camels enjoy the breeze

The forgotten oyster
The fry left
Under the sand

The praying hands
Of date palms
Which look upon earth from above

The wedding night
Inside the elephant shelter

Where ants frolic

A pinch of beaten rice,
Cooked, using only the twigs the pigeons bring

The anthology of words 
Read and re-read
In a hand-written letter

The translation of the moment
God couldn’t quite get

what could it have been?

Covered daughter with kisses..
She wept, alarmed

I heard the voice of God telling daughter,
” I didn’t understand anything either!”

Translation : Anitha Varma

2007 February 28

We met
In a deserted street
In Kabul, capital of Afghanistan,
In the next incarnation.

A tee shirt , with the legend
“The lovers in this incarnation
Belonged to two populations
That were at war in the last one”
Walked by.

I realized that day
That your gaze
Was a bullet
Of hatred and vengeance
Left over from unabated fury
Even after firing six times that day

And you told me
That my words
Were like
The satisfaction of chopping repeatedly,
A body long dead

When you saw popcorn on the wayside,
Why did you offer to get it?
Why did you coo, ‘what’s wrong, dear’ when I sighed?
I am clueless!

you asked
How we separated
The first time it was because the flame flared up
When lighting a taper
Once it was because the phone rang while kissing.
There was some stain on my shirt when we met in a dream
For asking
For not asking
For calling, not calling,
For sighing,
For laughing, for whimpering,
For crying, for eating, for not eating,
For sending, for not wishing to send,
For going to the toilet
Without asking permission
For saying a prayer for mother and children

Must have died together on that day.
The anxiety was not
About who would look after you
If I died first,
But who all will look at you!

Must have killed
If not that, God would have interfered
Whatever the rock on which it is built,
God would upset it with an earthquake if nothing else.

God and His strange ways!

In the Afghan capital city of Kabul,
It is the same us who killed with love in this fashion

When you exclaimed
“How lovely this city is”,
I lighted another cigarette

This time, another tee shirt
With the legend “I am not even born”
Passes by

I remembered
The two lines you told me
in the last incarnation,
Four days before Christmas,
A Thursday evening,
At 5:41.
I laughed without telling you that.
You gave me a kiss.

Translation Anitha Varma


In the garden in Corniche
In the playground bound by a metal fence,
While the Arab teenage kicks the ball,
The feet of the Sudanese, sitting on the stone bench nearby
Start prickling;

Cries out that

For one who knows how to score goals,
The hunger to kick a ball
Is the ultimate one!

Me? I shall remain nameless!

The fisherman 
Whose whole body tingles

As he espies a shiver of gigantic sharks
Even while swimming for life, 
Having lost his boat and fishing net in the deluge,

The nun, whose breasts start secreting

As she watches a bawling baby,
Standing amidst toddlers of the nursery

The swimmer,
Who crawls through the desert
On camel-back

I do not ask for anything else
Just the ball and the opposition
Let a thousand, or, tens of thousands, come

Let the goal-mouth
Be miles distant,
I do not ask for anything else

Once, while carrying a load of cement

On the tenth floor,
For a moment,
A moment,
The sun tempted, as a huge ball.

The scar of the beating received
While dribbling the sun on the sky meadow
Remains on the back..

There are balls anyone can play with.

No, all surges ahead

Do not end in goals.
There are no games that do not have ‘foul’ -
Even in dreams.

There are no Arab children
In the playground now.

Jut the ball, ball, ball alone.

It scurries hither and thither

By itself,
Races outside,
Speeds towards the goal-mouth,
Sometimes ducks out of sight.

Very privately,

And even more secretly,
Ball smiled at me.
A shudder of incarnations
In my toes.

As soon as the ball and feet
Left the playground,
Two legs
Started dancing,
Betwixt twilight and night.

Translation / Anitha Varma